My Greek Adventure: Day 2

London, U.K. — I had always wanted to visit the United Kingdom since I was younger.

I have this weird fascination with the Royal Family, which coming from someone who lives in a country that spent eight years and 25,000 lives to get rid of the Royal Family is incredibly rich.

But I’m a sucker for the “special relationship” between the United States and United Kingdom.

We speak the same language.

We exchange tourists, students and businessmen/women on a daily basis.

Suffice to say the USA and UK are BFFs.

After the plane landed at Heathrow and I gathered my bearings, making sure I didn’t leave my passport or wallet behind because wouldn’t that be a great start to my month in Europe, I proceeded to make my way down the steps to the airport’s tarmac, the cool British air putting me at ease after spending the previous two weeks in the August sun and humidity that comes with living near the Chesapeake Bay.

We then boarded a bus to the terminal, passing planes arriving and departing other gates with their array of colors and logos passing by: QANTAS, British Airways, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, etc.

Since I flew business class I arrived at Heathrow with a “Fast Track” pass to make my way through customs faster. Unfortunately, that British Border Force officer was slow, and the ticket was useless.

He may have been thorough, but my luggage had been screened and as I later found out, rummaged through by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I had TSA Pre-Check and a electronic passport.

Seriously, beep-bang-boop, welcome to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


“Where are you from?… How long will you be staying in the United Kingdom?… Are you meeting any friends you chat with online here?”

Baltimore. 12 hours. Nope she was busy in Scotland.

Anything else Charles?



Passing border security with around 10 hours to explore one of the great cities in the world I made my way to luggage storage, which believe me is worth it, you don’t want to carry a bag around the busy streets of London, wasting precious minutes in line at baggage storage facilities that dot the various landmarks across the city.

I grabbed a ticket for the Heathrow Express.

Again, an added expense that was well worth it.

In traveling, time is money.

I don’t have an hour and 40 minutes to wait for the Underground to get me from Heathrow to downtown and back.

Heathrow Express has only three stops: two terminals in the airport (four minutes away) and Paddington Station in downtown London, a short 15-minute train ride away.

I then took one of the traditional black taxis you see in postcard and films dotting the city to Buckingham Palace.

My driver was a delightful old man who told me how much he loved America and was glad I had decided to come into his city during my 12-hour layover.

He got me there in enough time to arrive at the gates outside the Palace for the changing of the guard, a ceremony I highly recommend, just not when it’s hot or crowded.

But if you’re tall, or can slip in and out of crowds to find a space along the fence dotting the outskirts of the Palace, it’s worth it.

You see the Welsh Guards in their tall bearskin hats and pristine red uniforms marching in front of the Palace crowned on top by a Union flag whenever Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is not in residence (she was at Windsor Castle), or her own personal ensign when she is inside, following in the footsteps of her forbearers dating back to George III.

The Guards saluted one another, with the retiring soldiers marching into a guard house at the right side of the Palace and the soldiers coming on duty marching to their positions.

After the pageantry of the ceremony, the musical corps began playing some music which was foreign to me.

Apparently I didn’t recognize the late Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T being played right behind the gate to the Palace.

The tribute to the late Queen of Soul went viral and was featured by various news outlets around the world.

After their performance, the soldiers, led by their musical comrades paraded through the Palace gates down the Mall, drawing cheers and claps from ongoing spectators who flocked to see them from around the world.

I had a 12:00 P.M. appointment to view the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, a privilege only available during the tail end of summer while the Queen is in Scotland or her beloved Windsor Castle.

After picking up my ticket, and a 4-pound (currency not weight) commemorative book on the Palace (photos are not allowed inside so they figure this makes up for it), I proceeded to make my way to the line of fellow royal enthusiasts eager to see the castle purchased and used by members of the Royal Family since the 1760s.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I was scolded by a teenager working a summer job in the pavilion outside the Palace for taking a picture NOT IN THE PALACE, but in the white tent connecting the street to the residence.

It wasn’t the Palace, I paid good money to view the rooms, and America kept Britain alive during the Blitz. If I want a picture of a picture Charles and Camilla, I am going to get my picture.


Minus the snooty British girl who threatened to take my phone away if I didn’t turn it off, not put in my pocket, off, the Palace was wonderful.

You walk into the Palace State Rooms (located on the left side of the Palace if you are facing the famous front façade) and begin a walking tour with an audio guide (this was a good one, I know some can either be boring, useless or like ancient cellphones, require you to hold next to your ear).

The ornate rooms were filled with beautiful paintings dating back to the 16th Century including famous works by Rubens and portraits of royalty past and present, most notably George III and Queen Victoria.

The ceilings featured beautifully crafted designs and antique chandeliers, converted to electricity during the 1800s hung from nearly every ceiling; their shiny crystals twinkling in the light.

In honor of this 70th birthday, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, selected his favorite pieces belong to the Royal Collection Trust (charged with preserving the legacy and integrity of various royal treasures and properties across the United Kingdom) for display.

These included works of art from Afghanistan from a charity he founded to preserve local art threatened in the wake of the War on Terror, portraits of his mother Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother, his two sons, William and Harry and his wife Camilla Parker-Bowles. Also on display were portraits of D-Day and Battle of Britain veterans which had been drawn in the last few years.

Proceeding through the halls I came to rooms where the Queen performed official ceremonies including the Knight of the Garter ceremony, state banquets, etc. In one room, fit for royalty, the mirror lined walls on either side of a red carpeted floor and intricate wood crown molding. On one end of the room was a large organ in the balcony used for the ceremonies and banquets, with official thrones of Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip 30 meters opposite.

As my tour came to a close, I passed through rooms with secret passages allowing royals to slip in and out of parties and meetings without drawing attention, as well as marble sculptures from Italy, including the famous “Mars and Venus” carved by Antonio Canova between 1817-1822.

From there I exited onto a veranda that is turned into an outdoor café for the few months the Palace is open to the public. You can order sandwiches, ice cream, scones, strawberries and cream, or in my case after dying of dehydration along a two hour tour, three cans of water and a strawberries and cream scone. The scone was delicious, water gone within moments.

After a half-hour of relaxation, I walked down through the gardens to the gift shop, perused the assorted selection of royal memorabilia and made my selections before walking around the grounds a little while longer.

I then moved onto a tour of the Royal Mews, the name for the residence of the royal carriages, horses and fine European automobiles, including a Rolls Royce, used for carrying members of the Royal Family around London.

I saw the state carriages used for marriages and coronations of kings and queens including the Ascot Carriage Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rode in along the streets of Windsor following their nuptials in May.

The tour concluded with a visit to the stable room where various horses Her Majesty has owned over the years, including some named for overseas visits (Sydney, Melbourne, Maryland). In the far room stood the most marvelous carriage I had ever seen. Designed for George III’s coronation in the 1760s, it weighs 4 tons, and is covered in ornate gold sculptures featuring ancient mythological figures.

Deemed the most uncomfortable ride by those who have ridden in it, the carriage easily stood 15 feet tall, allowing spectators a view of their monarch.

Rather than calling it a day, I decided to make my way around to the front of the Palace, posing for selfies, watching thousands of tourists from around the world doing the same, congregating either in front of the Palace gates or around the Victoria Memorial on the opposite side of the street.

I then proceeded down the Mall, feet aching, dying of thirst passing various memorials and monuments to fallen soldiers and past politicians, seeing London’s Embassy Row behind a tall stone security wall running nearly the length of the Mall itself.

After a decent walk I found myself unintentially at Horse Guards Parade, home of beach volleyball during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

My phone told me this was parliament, but anyone who watched London 2012 could tell you otherwise, thank you Apple Maps.

Seeing a giant Union flag flying above the city a few blocks down, I knew it must be parliament so I journeyed onward.

After walking past even more monuments and Whitehall, home to the British Government’s cabinet, I reached it. Britain’s parliament.

The seat of power for what was once the largest empire in the world. The place where taxes on tea, sugar and stamps were passed, leading to revolution in the United States.

It’s a beautiful building, but after recent terror attacks near Westminster, including one just outside parliament a few weeks ago, an increased police presence was surely visible with bobbies carrying automatic rifles ready to prevent another lone wolf attack.

My time in London drawing to a close, I had just enough time to walk across the street and through a few back alleys to Westminster Abbey. The final resting place of kings, queens, poets, politicians and soldiers alike, Westminster Abbey has also hosted royal weddings including Elizabeth and Philip, Charles and Diana along with William and Kate. The Abbey was also home to Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, and Diana’s funeral in September 1997.

I wasn’t able to go inside having arrived to late for a tour, and running short on time before having to depart for Heathrow, but I walked around the Abbey, stealing glances inside the open doors and gazing up at the magnificent architecture that has stood the test of time.

After some time to stop and stare at the people of London beginning to make their way home on a busy Friday afternoon in front of Queen Elizabeth II Centre, I caught one of the famous black taxis of London, which are much more special inside than a typical American taxi. There is enough space for five, and a delightful conversation is always to be had with an informed driver like I had who was pleased with how much I enjoyed visiting his city.

By the time I made it back to Heathrow and into the British Airways lounge I was beat. I had walked over five miles around the city, way more exercise than I had in a very long time. I was exhausted. My feet were killing me. I couldn’t feel my tongue.

So I grabbed a litre of Perrier, meant for a group of people I assume, a glass full of ice, sat down in a chair, plopped my feet up on the one opposite, put in my headphones and relaxed like a king on his throne.

If you want to know what an international lounge is like, one fly first or business class it’s amazing, second, it’s basically a gathering or the widest assortment of people you could imagine. Older gentlemen making their way from Heathrow to various cities around the world on business, decked out in their black suit and ties sipping a cognac at the bar. A mother, father and their three small children, trying not to knock over a table full of appetizers. A 26-year old graduate student on his way to a month long conference in Athens lounging in two chairs with sunglasses on listening to country music like he owned the place.

Finally it was time to go.

Had to face the reality of leaving the United Kingdom for a month in a country I didn’t speak the language in, didn’t know much about outside of its Olympic history and ouzo and the fact I was one step closer to sharing a room with a complete stranger for an entire month.

No champagne on this flight, mostly cause, again, I was dehydrated from the night before and walking around London, but I met a mother and daughter (who was about my age, maybe a little older) and we started talking about everything from The Crown to Donald Trump.

We flew off into the dead of night leaving England behind, me for an IOA conference, them for holiday.

Little did I know I had absolutely nothing to fear about heading to Greece, and that the thunderstorms over the Balkans I saw from my window seat weren’t an omen of bad tidings, but a blessing, showing the worst would soon be behind me.



My Greek Adventure: Day 1

Baltimore, Md.  — As long as she raised him right, a man will always love his momma.

She gave him life.

She listened to him cry over a girl, or many girls.

And she’s usually the first person he hugs after he graduates from college.

At least in my house.

I have no clue how close you are to your mothers but I’m incredibly close to mine.

She’s had a rash of health issues these last few years, and since my sister moved to Indiana, I’ve been the only one around to take care of her.

I had already tried to back out of this trip as many times as humanly possible.

Not because I’m afraid to fly, or worried about going so far away.

No, I do not like the idea of being an almost 27-year old man sharing a room with someone from another city, state or country.

Basically, I like my privacy.

Interpret that for what you like.

So yes, I was willing to jeopardize a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a month in Greece, almost entirely paid for (I had to supply my own airfare), because I don’t like sharing a room with someone.

If you had a great roommate in college, or a sibling growing up, then you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.

But if you did, you know where I am coming from.

In my experience (a year at Southern California and six months in Queensland), I had two of the worst roommates you could ever imagine.

They wouldn’t wash dishes, they’d be loud.

You name it, they did it.

So I wasn’t keen on ever having a roommate again.

But, I was reminded, that I’m a native English speaker, leaving his home for a conference conducted entirely in English.

Imagine how someone from China, Croatia or Brazil must feel.

Eventually the Super Shuttle came.

Late, I might add.

It picked me up. It dropped me off. I checked my bags. I went through security. No turning back now.

When I bought the plane tickets in May, they were non-refundable.

Because at barely $2,100 round trip in business class, it was a steal.

Nearly a month after I booked the flight, the same seat cost some unlucky bastard over $5,000!

I’d never flown business class before, and so I didn’t know how awesome it could be.

If you’re nervous as hell about leaving your momma, jetting off to a country where English isn’t the first language and sharing a room with a complete stranger, you do one thing business class certainly allows.


So I sat in the lounge sipping champagne and eating finger foods while texting my friend Aly about how the Packers game wasn’t on in New York as I watched CNN pundits go back and forth on Donald Trump’s response to the passing of Senator John McCain.

Then it came time to board the flight, two champagnes and two seltzer waters along with god knows how many finger sandwiches and fresh veggies.

What’d I do when I got on board?

Ordered more champagne of course.
I had intended to binge a few episodes of The Crown I downloaded to my iPad the night before and then get a few hours rest before landing in London.

Well that didn’t happen.

I ordered yet another champagne, wiped my face with the hot towelette they offered me, sat in a “business class” seat that was smaller than the premium economy one I had flown on to and from New Zealand in 2015.

It did lay flat I will give British Airways that.

I had packed my iPad in my carry-on, which I wasn’t about to get up and rummage through.

So I sifted through what British Airways had to offer on a five-hour flight to London.

The Middle, no.

Big Bang Theory, no.

The Crown, no.

So I decided to watch the James Corden live action version of Peter Rabbit.

Quite cute I must add.

After the movie finished, I was like, “time for bed.”

Well you know that adage about how man makes plans and God laughs?

Welcome to my world.

I couldn’t sleep.

My throat was dry from the flight and so much alcohol with so little water.

The woman in her pod beside me snored.

I was stuck with the seat near the bathroom so all night long was a repeated soundtrack of the door opening, closing, a loud whoosh whisking the water away followed by yet another door opening and closing.

On top of all that, I couldn’t stop singing John Michael Montgomery’s “How Was I To Know” in my head.




Suffice to say I got little to know sleep.

But I didn’t care anymore.

I was about to land in London.

Super Bowl LII: America’s Super Bowl

Forget Frank Bruni’s column in the New York Times about how this was the Super Bowl America deserved, and instead realize this was an American Super Bowl.

Now what do I mean by that?

Well, on the one hand, you have the New England Patriots, or as some Americans would call them, the 1%.

They’ve gone to half of the last 16 Super Bowls, and a win on Sunday would have given New England its sixth title, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most all time.

Tom Brady is a 40-year old multi-millionaire in peak physical condition, and married to a world-renowned supermodel.

Bill Belichick, through every scandal that’s plagued the Patriots, from Spygate to Deflategate, adds rings and titles to his trophy case like he was Meryl Streep at the Oscars.

And then you have their fans.

Since New England won its first Super Bowl in February 2002, the Patriots have won an additional four Super Bowls, the Red Sox have won three World Series titles, the Bruins have won two Stanley Cups and the Celtics have an NBA title.

In other words, New England fans are the spoiled rotten children of Wall Street executives Americans have come to loathe while witnessing the economic desperaity between rich and poor.

Then there are the Philadelphia Eagles and their nationally, if not world renowned, fans.

No matter which side of the political aisle you are on, the Eagles and their fans represented the opposition.

If you’re a Democrat, the Eagles represented the same “got-lucky” (Philadelphia was a 40:1 Super Bowl longshot and an underdog in each of their three playoff games) crowd that took over the White House when no one thought it possible.

If you’re a Republican, the Eagles were told they weren’t good enough and didn’t belong in the NFC Championship Game, let alone the Super Bowl (think back to Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment).

And on both sides, carnival barkers singing “Fly, Eagles Fly!” while driving a monster truck up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, get under your skin like someone from the opposing side of the aisle calling you a “snowflake.”

So outside of those living in Philadelphia and New England, who did you cheer for, the 1% or the opposition?



Alabama-Georgia: ESPN’s white elephant?

At a time when the NFL’s popularity is on the decline, college football’s is on the rise.

Back in October, Gallup conducted a follow up to its 2012 poll, asking Americans which sports they were a fan of.

The poll found support for professional football sank 10 points from a high of 67% in 2012, to 57% in 2017. In contrast, support for college football rose two points from 54% to 56% over the same time span.

Those numbers should come as welcome news to folks over at the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Instead, storm clouds are on the horizon, and tonight, there’s a good chance they pour.

After last summer’s infamous purge, when over 100 journalists, staffers and on-air talent, including Trent Dilfer, Ed Werder and Danny Kanell were let go in order to cut the bottom line, ESPN hoped to reshape the company into a modern sports media powerhouse, built around how viewers consumed their content.

Contributing to ESPN’s financial woes are burdensome contracts the network signed with the NFL and NCAA which cost the network billions of dollars while producing meager results.

Monday Night Football has flopped in recent years, with lackluster matchups and a revolving door of forgettable play-by-play and color commentators trying to replicate Al Michaels and John Madden.

Any given Saturday, ESPN has to compete with CBS, the Pac-12 Network, Big Ten Network, Longhorn Network and a bevy of FOX entities (FOX, FS1, FS2) for college football ratings.

And so, when Alabama put the nail in the coffin on Clemson’s season in a much-hyped Sugar Bowl letdown on New Year’s Day, honchos at ESPN likely emulated Charlie Brown and let out a, “good grief!”


Because an all-SEC college football championship has happened before.

It bombed.

In January 2012, Alabama took on LSU in a rematch of “The Game of the Century” that LSU won two months prior, 9-6.

Nielsen ratings showed Alabama-LSU II, a 21-0 blowout by the Crimson Tide, was at the time, the third-worst rated title game in history.

And that game is eerily similar to tonight’s matchup between Alabama and Georgia.

2012: LSU came in as the higher ranked team and had home field advantage (the game was played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans) against Alabama.

2017: Georgia comes into the game ranked No. 2 in the country (Bama is No. 4), and the game is being played in Georgia’s backyard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Even though the game will feature, “the two best teams in the country,” vying for a national title, Alabama-Georgia comes with a lot of baggage for ESPN.

1.) Outside of SEC country, people hate the SEC.

Call it the Tom Brady effect. Outside of New England, Tom Brady is largely loathed by football fans. They see him as arrogant and pompous, the pretty-boy who’s married to a supermodel and always wins.

The same goes for the SEC. Since 2000, the SEC has nine national titles*

They’re the pretty-boy that’s always selected to the College Football Playoff, and more likely than not, the team that wins.

2.) Even in SEC country, people will have a hard time with this matchup.

In North Florida, home to the University of Florida in Gainesville, people are celebrating the Central Florida Knights as the national champions. That isn’t saying every Gators fan would agree that a team that wasn’t selected for the CFP is a national champion, but good luck getting them to say hated rivals Georgia or Alabama are either.

Across the rest of the SEC states, how do you choose who to root for?

Auburn fans most definitely will not cheer for Alabama.

But will fans of teams in the SEC West cheer for Georgia, and fans in the SEC East cheering for Bama?

Or will they, like a great deal of Americans, give up, and watch The Bachelor instead?

3.) Why is the national championship game featuring two teams from the same conference?

A lot of people have a hard time fathoming how Alabama, a one-loss team that didn’t win its division or conference, was selected for the CFP over a one-loss division champion, but conference loser, like Wisconsin, or two-loss division and conference champion, like Ohio State or Southern Cal.

It’s still bugging people a week after the Sugar Bowl, with ESPN’s Facebook page getting comments along the lines of, “Bama doesn’t deserve to be in the championship.”

ESPN currently owns the television rights to the College Football Playoff and Final through 2025.

So they’re wedded to this thing whether it succeeds or fails.

But at a reported $470 million annual price tag, having a game like Alabama-Georgia flop, is something the network can ill afford.

If the game draws viewers, like Clemson-Alabama II, then it’s a hit and everyone’s whining was for naught.

If it bombs, like LSU-Alabama II, then ESPN will lobby the playoff committee hard to eliminate the possibility of an all-SEC CFP Final ever again.

* LSU and Southern Cal are considered co-champions of the 2003 college football season according to official NCAA records.

No. 21 Michigan – Maryland preview

COLLEGE PARK – After coming up short against Rutgers last weekend, the Maryland Terrapins are looking to rebound as they welcome the No. 21 Michigan Wolverines to Maryland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

A win against the Scarlet Knights would have made Maryland’s path to a second consecutive bowl much easier. Instead, the Terrapins must find a way to beat two of its remaining three opponents, all ranked, that have a combined 6-3 record against the Terps since they joined the conference in 2014.

The last time Maryland knocked off more than one ranked opponent in a season (the Terrapins beat No. 23 Texas in September) was 2007.

Suffice to say history is not on their side.

Meanwhile, Michigan will look to keep their slim Big Ten East title hopes alive. Already 1 1/2 games behind division leading Michigan State, the Wolverines face a difficult schedule of their own.

After today, Michigan faces No. 8 Wisconsin on the road before their annual season finale against No. 13 Ohio State in Ann Arbor in two weeks.

The Wolverines will leave College Park with games at No. 8 Wisconsin and home against No. 13 Ohio State left on the schedule.

Maryland comes into yet another game facing questions at quarterback after starter Max Bortenschlager was knocked out of the game against Rutgers leaving his status for the game uncertain.

If Bortenschlager is unable to go, sophomore Ryan Brand, an Air Force transfer, will likely make his first career start for the Terrapins.

Last week in relief of Bortenschlager, Brand completed 8 of 12 passes for 68 yards and almost brought the Terps back to tie the game.

With Wilton Speight and John O’Korn still nursing injuries of their own, Brandon Peters will make his second consecutive start at quarterback.

The sophomore from Avon, Indiana completed 8 of 13 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Wolverines win over Minnesota last weekend.

Michigan will likely rely on Karan Higdon to carry the load against a Maryland defense that has given up an average of 198 rushing yards in three games against ranked opponents.

If the Terrapins have any shot at winning this game, it will likely depend on their ability to force turnovers. Against Michigan State, the Wolverines committed five turnovers without taking the ball away from the Spartans a single time.

Game Notes:

  • Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland is 1-2 against the Wolverines. The Terps beat Michigan, 23-16, in their inaugural Big Ten season, but lost the last two by a combined score of 87-3.
  • Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin served as Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in 2015 before being hired at Maryland.
  • Michigan holds the all-time record in the series, 5-1.





Meet the “Melbourne Marvel,” Maryland punter Wade Lees

Studying for exams in Waterfront Library at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, Wade Lees couldn’t help but wonder how he got there.

He’d dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to pursue a career in the Australian Football League, just like his father Ray, and was considered one of the best all-around prospects to come out of his home state of Victoria in years.

Lees Ballarat

Lees in action for Casey against North Ballarat (2010)

After playing six seasons for the Casey Scorpions in the developmental Victoria Football League, Lees was on the verge of jumping to the AFL. Then fate intervened.

In 2012, Lees ordered a fat-burning supplement that unbeknownst to him contained trace amounts of a substance banned by the AFL.

Customs officers intercepted the package upon its arrival to Australia, and reported it to league officials, who subsequently handed the top prospect an 18-month suspension.

Just like that, Lees’ lifelong dream of becoming an Aussie Rules football player was over.

Typically, when an athlete’s career comes to an end, they find a new line of work, get married and move on.

Wade Lees was never typical anything.

He’d been dating his girlfriend, Caitlin, for some time, but at 24, marriage was on neither of their minds.

Since he didn’t finish high school, his prospects of finding a job were bleak at best.

For a while he supported his mother working construction in Melbourne, where brutal summer temperatures can typically top more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wade Lees had officially hit rock bottom.

He decided to use some of his savings to go “walk-about,” on a four-month journey across Europe and North America.

While in the United States, Lees reconnected with an old friend from home, Cameron Johnston, who just so happened to be the punter at Ohio State.

Johnston connected Lees to former NFL punter, Nathan Chapman, who ran ProKick Australia, an academy in Melbourne designed to help Australians transition to American football.


Nathan Chapman at the ProKick Australia Academy

Chapman, who spent time in the Packers and Bears organizations in 2004, was a former AFL star with the Brisbane Lions and Hawthorn Hawks.

“Wade was a natural kicker during his 12 months in the program,” Chapman said. “When he first joined, we focused on academics, but football remained a release for him.”

If he was ever going to play college football, Lees had to rectify one glaring problem.

He never finished high school.

Lees attempted to use his experience in the VFL for credit on applications to universities across Australia.

Only Deakin, one of Australia’s most prestigious universities, was willing to accept the former prospect.

Lees was a full-time student again for the time in a decade.

Before leaving for a job with Southern California, Michigan’s special teams coordinator, John Baxter, attempted to recruit Lees to Ann Arbor.

No scholarship offer from head coach Jim Harbaugh ever materialized.

Enter newly installed Maryland head coach, D.J. Durkin, Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in 2015.

For years, the Terrapins had one of the worst special teams units in the country, something Durkin aimed to fix.

He lost former Lou Groza Award winning kicker, and Lees’ fellow countryman, Brad Craddock, to graduation, and punter Nick Pritchard proved to be a distraction after famously fighting a sideline bench following a shanked punt against Michigan State.

“Wade was a perfect fit for D.J.,” said Chapman. “He’s strong-minded, and brought an added toughness to the program Durkin was looking for.”

By January 2016, Lees was on a flight to Dulles, scholarship in hand, to join Durkin in College Park.

“It was really strange when I got here,” said Lees. “I spent the first couple of months on Craddock’s couch because the semester had already begun and housing was full.”


Lees (left) and former Maryland FWAA All-American kicker, Brad Craddock (right)

Even though Craddock is four years younger than Lees, the latter noted how the former became his “big brother,” showing him around campus and College Park, helping him acclimate to life in the United States.

“I never would have settled in so easy without him,” Lees said.

At 29, Wade found himself competing against guys born more than a decade before him.

“I was used to it. In the VFL, I was 24 and playing with guys ranging from 18 to 34.”

That sentiment has transcended his academic career as well, intent on a communications degree, with most of his fellow classmates having no clue how old he is, “especially after shaving.”

Lees still misses playing Aussie Rules football, especially the constant action, rather than running onto the field only six or seven times a game to punt and hold kicks.

He also longs for the natural comforts Australia has to offer, including pristine beaches, surfing and sun noting, “there’s just no good beaches around [Maryland].”

Lees’ active lifestyle previously included finishing a triathlon in 2013.

But don’t be fooled, he’s still got a sweet tooth, in particular for the Australian chocolate candy, Cherry Ripe.

“When mum was here for four weeks, I had her bring boxes from home since you can’t get them here.”

Lees’ most guilty pleasure of all however, remains Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

“I went to all three of her [Katy Perry] concerts with Caitlin when she performed in Melbourne a few years ago. I’m a huge fan. I just wish she and Taylor could put the feud behind them because I love them both.”

In the meantime, Lees has continued his quest to win the Ray Guy Award with his left leg every Saturday since being named to the preseason watch list.


Lees rugby-style punt in action

His best performance of the season came against Central Florida in September, when he averaged 47.1-yards per punt, including a career best 64-yard punt. For the season, Lees is averaging 39-yards per punt on 42 attempts.

Against Indiana on Saturday, Lees averaged 42.2-yards on five punts, including a 51-yard punt that pinned the Hoosiers on their own 1-yard line late in the game.

“It’s an honor to be nominated, but I’m focused on winning and keeping the award [which has gone to four Australians in a row] in our hands.”

Northwestern-Maryland Preview

COLLEGE PARK –  With both teams coming off their worst loss of the season, Maryland (3-2) and Northwestern (2-3) will face off in their first ever meeting this afternoon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

The game marks the midpoint of the season for both teams, each at a critical juncture heading into the second half.

Northwestern currently sits in last place in the Big Ten West, without a conference victory.

Following this afternoon’s matchup, the Wildcats face a three-game stretch against Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska.

Maryland is fifth in the Big Ten East behind perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.

Northwestern, along with Indiana and Rutgers, represent the Terrapins best chance to accumulate the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.

Maryland also has road games at Wisconsin and Michigan State and home games against Michigan and Penn State to close the season.

Complicating matters further, both teams received their bye week early in the season, leaving no time to heal injured players.

If any team could really use a bye right now, it’s Maryland.

Max Bortenschlager, already the third quarterback to start a game for the Terrapins this season, left last week’s game against Ohio State with a concussion, and remains a game time decision.

If Bortenschlager can’t go, Caleb Henderson, a junior transfer from North Carolina, will make his first career start.

Henderson came in following the injury to Bortenschlager, and finished the game 1 for 1 for no yards and no touchdowns.

Maryland will need to rally around whoever starts at quarterback in order to bounce back from a 66-yard performance against the Buckeyes.

The Terrapins offensive line failed to protect Bortenschlager, who was sacked six times a week ago, or create holes for a running game that amassed 262 yards on 47 carries two weeks ago against Minnesota.

Northwestern has quarterback issues of their own, and Coach Pat Fitzgerald has speculated backup quarterback Matt Alviti could see extended playing time if starter Clayton Thorson fails to impress.

Thorson struggled against the Nittany Lions last weekend, and was pulled in favor of Alviti, who led the Wildcats on their only scoring drive of the game.

Northwestern is also likely to rely on standout running back, Justin Jackson, who comes into today’s game averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season, along with four rushing touchdowns.

The Wildcats enter the game as 3-point favorites.

Game Notes

  • The two teams will not meet again until October 17, 2020 at Ryan Field in Evanston.
  • Pat Fitzgerald began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1998.
  • After the game, the Terrapins will have played every team in the Big Ten except for Illinois. The Illini travel to College Park next October.


Northwestern 24, Maryland 18