Vanderbilt punter Matt Hayball talked about his family coming from Australia to watch his Commodore debut. Hayball had not seen his family for about a year and a half. He also talked about being named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award. pic.twitter.com/Za1hSSGm8n
— Andrew Wilf (@andrew_wilf) August 24, 2022
HONOLULU — After three years as a professional, Matthew Hayball decided to take a different route in his sporting life.
Hayball, 25, had been a member of the Geelong Reserves in the Australian Football League, although he never appeared in a match. He kept his eyes on American football and joined Prokick Australia to help develop his game as a punter and kicker.
Moving to the United States in 2018 to play for Florida Atlantic University, the Roxby Downs, Australia, native earned an undergraduate degree in finance and decided to look for somewhere to pursue a graduate degree.
“Aside from the obvious academics, just the coaching staff was huge for me,” Hayball said. “The vision that (head) coach (Clark) Lea talks about a lot, after I took my official visit, I committed right away. Just really believed in what they had to say and the direction the program is heading. I think we’re going to find success.”
Hayball has been on an upward trajectory since making his collegiate debut in 2018. The Ray Guy Award Watch List selection ranked 33rd nationally in punting average his first season, 20th in 2020 and 18th in 2021.
Now he hopes to continue that success as a Commodore. Hayball will make his debut at 9:30 p.m. CT Saturday when Vandy faces Hawai’i and, when he does, he’ll look up into the stands to see his mother and father in attendance. The couple made the nine-hour flight from Australia for the game and to support Hayball.
“Really excited. It’s been a good build up and now we’re just ready to put our preparation out on the field,” Hayball said. “And, then, it’ll be pretty special to play in front of my parents. It’s been a couple years (since I’ve seen them). Just very excited.”
Hayball and the Commodores continued with their daily practice schedule Wednesday morning. They arrived at a local high school just before 9 a.m. and worked out for a little more than two hours.
On Wednesday afternoon members of the team’s offense, along with special teams specialists, were schedule to visit Pearl Harbor. The team will hold its last full practice Thursday morning before an afternoon team outing at the beach.
“We’re really focusing,” Vandy freshman wide receiver Jayden McGowan said. “We’re not really falling into the distractions. We had a lot of meetings about that before so we’re really locked-in on the goal for Saturday.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt Athletics for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.
Practice #3 Report w. @Coach_Lea
⚓️ Spotlight on the DL
⚓️ How the @VandyFootball DEF matches up w. Hawaii’s likely Run-and-Shoot style OFF. #AnchorDown | #BeatHawaii 🏈 pic.twitter.com/Ni9jKN4lja
— Andrew Allegretta (@AAllegretta) August 24, 2022