UCLA punter Wade Lees, 31, continues his journey in Westwood

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He wouldn't be right here now if just one factor didn't go so unsuitable.

The again issues of his single mom that required 5 surgical procedures and compelled him to drop out of highschool to get a job putting in utility pipes.

Your Australian soccer suspension guidelines by ordering a fats burning product
which contained traces of a prohibited substance.

His college teammate died of warmth stroke and his coach was positioned on indefinite go away solely to be reinstated and fired the subsequent day.

All this led Wade Lees to UCLA, and that’s the solely factor that mattered when the 31-year-old was on the sting of a driving vary and contemplated his unlikely ultimate college season.

"There's somewhat story behind that," Lees mentioned this week with a wry smile. "I had no intention of even coming right here."

Maryland Graduate Switch who’s believed to be the second oldest participant in main faculty soccer got here to Westwood this summer season with what might be thought-about his most zigzagging journey.

Lees has
There was a lot time that his Terrapins teammates known as him "The Godfather", a reference that he was a decade older than some gamers and virtually as outdated as some coaches throughout his three years in School Park, Maryland.

UCLA participant Wade Lees on the fall camp on the soccer fields on the Wasserman Soccer Heart on the UCLA campus on July 31.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Occasions)

His new teammates haven’t given him any grief in an excellent temper, though the one Bruin born when Terry Donahue was nonetheless coaching the group would possibly need to stick himself to the likelihood.

"I really feel like I’ve to satisfy another person," mentioned second-year quarterback Austin Burton, "earlier than making a joke on an outdated man."

Lees is aware of what it’s wish to be on the different finish of the spectrum, after having performed Australian soccer with the 30-year-old youngsters. If issues had labored because the Melbourne native initially anticipated, he would star within the Australian Soccer League.

He’s now competing for a chance within the NFL after altering faculties for his ultimate audition.

The dying of Jordan McNair of Maryland final 12 months and the ensuing turmoil that led to the dismissal of coach DJ Durkin created an ungainly uncertainty.

Lees was additionally seeking to transfer to Los Angeles as a result of it’s nearer to residence and might be a profitable touchdown place if it doesn’t attain skilled soccer.

"It's like that is the mecca of every little thing right here," Lees mentioned, stating the probabilities within the leisure business.

His nice alternative as a possible UCLA beginning participant got here on account of Stefan Flintoft's departure after final season.

Lees brings spectacular credentials, as he has appeared twice on the watch record for the Ray Man Award that goes to the most effective faculty participant within the nation. He began a 67-yard clearance towards the state of Michigan final season and accomplished a move for a primary try at false clearance through the Terrapins' offense towards the state of Ohio that fell quick in time beyond regulation.

Lees is left-handed however can kick with any foot and has discovered to kick the standard spiral along with rugby fashion with its evil twist that may be troublesome to catch.

"You may deploy to the left and kick every little thing to the precise," mentioned UCLA catcher Jaylen Erwin, one of many group's clearance gamers. "Then he is aware of tips on how to play little thoughts video games with us."

Lees was as soon as a prospect for the AFL earlier than Australian customs in 2012 intercepted a bundle containing a US fats burner that Lees mentioned he ordered to scale back pores and skin folds after gaining weight after surgical procedure . The complement contained a prohibited steroid and the authorities suspended Lees for 18 months regardless that he by no means took it and mentioned he didn’t comprehend it contained an unlawful substance.

His curiosity in American soccer awoke the next 12 months throughout a visit to america after driving to Tampa, Florida, to observe an NFL recreation between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lees had no method of realizing that day that Eagles coach Chip Kelly would ultimately grow to be his coach at UCLA.

When Lees watched a school soccer recreation on tv the identical weekend, he noticed former Australian guidelines participant Cameron Johnston enjoying for the state of Ohio earlier than 105,00zero followers.

"I assumed, man, I need to do that," recalled Lees, who was 25 on the time.

It was not going to be straightforward. Lees despatched a Fb message to Johnston, an acquaintance who linked him to Nathan Chapman, the proprietor of an Australian kicking academy who had helped ship a lot of punters to American universities.

The UCLA participant Wade Lees working towards his punts.

Lees educated with Chapman for greater than two years as a part of a dizzying existence. He helped deal with his mom and labored full time in his building work whereas making an attempt to acquire college eligibility after he had lengthy deserted highschool.

The search would suggest acquiring your common equivalence diploma and finishing college programs, when you may discover a college that will settle for it.

He was rejected by three faculties earlier than lastly enrolling at Deakin College in Melbourne after selling his life expertise as an Australian guidelines participant to enter a sports activities administration program. His research generally saved him awake till four within the morning.

"He has taught me lots about life," Lees' mom, Kim Richardson, mentioned throughout a phone interview from his residence in Cairns, Australia. “Something can occur, you by no means surrender, you by no means let it go. The doorways shut, you continue to discover one other one to open. ”

Lees' mom initially thought that she meant to play when she mentioned she needed to clear as a result of the phrase means betting on the results of a profession in Australian jargon. He defined his intentions and confirmed his abilities on your
Mom and his future spouse, Caitlin, once they helped him prepare by feeding a ball throwing machine put in within the yard and chasing his gamers in a neighborhood park.

Lees had sufficient preliminary curiosity from Michigan and Clemson earlier than Maryland supplied a scholarship. Lees arrived at School Park earlier than the 2016 season as a 28-year freshman, which triggered some spikes that haven’t adopted him all through the nation.

"A number of occasions in Maryland, you had caught somewhat right here or there for being older," Lees mentioned, "however I haven't had something from these guys." [at UCLA]. These guys should do with the ball. "

Lees discovered an condominium about 15 minutes from the campus he shares with Caitlin. The couple married in Hawaii final month, however the boyfriend interrupted the honeymoon in three days so he may resume exercises along with his new teammates.

Wade mentioned: “Thankfully, she was understanding. However I promised a visit to Mexico or one thing like that on the finish of the 12 months. "

Caitlin mentioned: "I'd higher be good at it."

Australian gamblers have grow to be so widespread in faculty soccer that Lees ought to solely look by means of town to seek out one other. He’s Ben Griffiths, a 27-year-old USC crimson shirt freshman from Melbourne who has hung out on the seashore along with his countryman. Lees can also be a buddy of James Stefanou of Colorado, who at 32 is the oldest participant in faculty soccer.

However solely Lees has gone from abandonment directly on the verge of getting 4 college levels. He earned a bachelor's diploma in communications from Maryland and is finishing a web-based sports activities administration diploma from Deakin. He additionally has a grasp's diploma in administration and enterprise from Maryland and is finishing one in schooling at UCLA.

"It's loopy to consider the place it began and all of the obstacles that obtained in your method," Caitlin mentioned. "Now we’re right here, and who would have thought?"



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