By the time they reach college most athletes have been playing their sport for over 10 years, but for senior punter Austin Kilcullen, football didn’t enter his life until his junior year of high school.
“I actually didn’t play but two years of high school football; got cut from my high school soccer team my freshman year during tryouts and was like ‘I don’t really know what sport I’m going to play now,'” Kilcullen said. “So its funny that guys that are coming in as freshman have probably played more football than I have at this point.”
Fortunately for him his decision has worked out well. As a walk-on his freshman year Kilcullen redshirted, but earned the starting job in 2013. The Clarksville, Tennessee native wasted no time making a name for himself, as he averaged 44.2 yards per punt and sent 11 punts 50-yards or further in the Wildcats first year against Div. 1 competition.
In 2014, Kilcullen saw a decrease in his numbers to 36.5 yards per punt, but significantly improved his accuracy, dropping 19 punts inside the 20. And a year ago, he earned his first Southland Conference special teams player of the week award, after averaging 46.5 yards per punt in a close win against Stephen F. Austin 37-35.
As a result, it was no surprise to head coach Ken Collums the way his special teams held its own against Air Force last Saturday.
“Austin Kilcullen had a great game, I mean he’s booming kicks left and right,” Collums said.
Booming indeed, as Kilcullen set a career-high against the Falcons with a 65-yarder. For his performance he not only earned his second Southland Conference player of the week award, but Kilcullen was also recognized by the FCS as he earned honorable mention for national special teams player of the week.
“Just in my last year to kind of see how far I’ve come, and really have seen it through the entire process,” Kilcullen said. “And have just seen it from my locker number being 135, to like actually starting, to traveling to this year getting recognized it means a lot.”
In fact Kilcullen is on pace to go even farther after the first weekend of play. Among all FBS and FCS schools Kilcullen’s 46 yard per punt average ranks in the top-20 in the nation.
“He’s always had a big foot, I mean that thing comes off his foot and makes a pretty good sound sometimes, you want to hear that thump. You know what you’re going to get when he goes out on the field,” Collums said.
But football isn’t the only thing Kilcullen picked up his junior year at Clarksville high school. Throughout college he has made quite a name for himself in the photography realm.
After working different jobs that summer, he made enough money to buy a camera and begin teaching himself. Kilcullen said his passion for taking pictures has since evolved from there.
“For me taking pictures is a way to document what’s around me,” Kilcullen said. “You know it’s nice to see it everyday but it’s being able to look back in five years and kind of seeing where I was at during that phase in my life that makes it special.”
From his humble beginnings with photography as a hobby, Kilcullen has since been able to provide coverage of events such as Ms. Teen America, create campaign videos for companies such as Nisolo, a local shoe brand in Nashville and has become a consistent photographer for Betty & June, a local boutique here in Abilene.
“Now with doing a lot of client work it’s nice too because it feels like you’re not just buying from brands, you actually have something to bring to the table and collaborate with people and it’s really cool,” Kilcullen said.
Eventually, Kilcullen wants to move to shooting for larger brands like Supreme, Adidas or Urban Outfitters as a content creator for an advertising agency.
“I want to work at an agency because it is a way for me to combine my passions for photography and writing,” said Kilcullen, an ad/pr major. “And I would like to work for those brands because their aesthetics match with my personal aesthetic and the direction I want to head.”
But for now Kilcullen turns his lens toward Northern Colorado and his final 10 games as an ACU Wildcat. And after that Collums says no matter where Kilcullen ends up, his character will represent the purple and white long after he hangs up the pads.
“He is a consistent solid guy, wonderful guy to be around and he will truly be an ambassador for this place where ever he goes,” Collums said.