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As Tom Hackett sat eating French toast at Utah's Pro Day, Mitch Wishnowsky walked over bearing two cups of coffee and gave him one.
A chocolate-covered espresso bean sat atop Hackett's cup, half-melted onto the coffee lid.
"Mitch," Hackett said, miffed. "You've got to take it off the cup before it melts."
Wishnowsky Hackett's countryman and successor-in-waiting at punter has a lot still to learn. And coffee beans aren't the half of it.
There's little question about the Aussie sophomore's leg strength: He skies footballs with confidence, and in practice has shown similar precise placement on his punts that Hackett did. He can kick rugby style or from traditional sets. Wishnowsky's 6-foot-3 frame and love for bicep curls and tricep dips in the gym have given him the stocky build of a football player that Hackett who famously said he was "fat" while accepting the Ray Guy award for the second time never possessed.
But replacing the best punter in the nation is all about the details. As Wishnowsky works through spring practice, the little things he has to learn are at the forefront of his mind. When he was at Santa Barbara City College, a good punt was a far punt. The Utes are much more demanding.
"It's very serious, which is what I like and sorta what I was looking for," Wishnowsky said. "Everything just like, analyzing every punt. I'm used to, 'Just put your foot through it, you've got to kick it far.' Everything here is analyzed, which is probably why Utah has been the best."
The Utah specialists are nothing if not exacting technicians. Senior snapper Chase Dominguez, by all accounts, has had two bad snaps his entire career, and he can deliver the football to a precise height with laces facing up or down. Senior kicker Andy Phillips, who is Utah's all-time leader in field goals and has an 84 percent success rate, is "fussy" about the angle and placement of his holds on his kick attempts.
Wishnowsky is the new cog in what was a well-oiled operation when Hackett held for field goals. Early on, it wasn't easy to simply fit right in the middle.
"He had never really caught a live snap before, and the first couple he dropped," Dominguez said. "But since then, it's been good. He's picked it up really well."
What makes it easier, Wishnowsky said, is the warm reception he's gotten from Utah's specialists. Phillips picked him up in December when he flew into Utah. Every week, he's been invited to a Phillips family barbecue. He and Dominguez also get along well, and Hackett training for the NFL Draft in Utah and has been around to offer pointers.
While Dominguez called Wishnowsky "an animal" in the Utah weight room, the pace of conditioning was one of the toughest things for him to pick up.
"My mate in Santa Barbara and I used to go to the gym a little bit, more or less so we could go down and sit on the beach and play some beach volleyball," he said. "First few sessions here I really struggled in the gym. It's just different, a lot higher intensity, but now I'm getting the hang of it."
Utah's coaches are awed by Wishnowsky's physical talent, and his leg strength may even be better than Hackett's. But they're withholding judgment so far on his mental toughness, which Hackett had in spades.
Besides his long, precise punts and wacky media soundbites kicking bacon, anyone? Hackett earned a reputation for being a smooth operator, unflappable against any pressure. His leaping grab for a high snap and dash for a first down against Oregon cemented it.
"Mitch has, like, a super leg, it's a ridiculous," special teams co-coordinator Sharrieff Shah said. "I don't know how savvy he is. Tom was super savvy against pressure. The windows that he would select and find to kick through with pressure coming on the outside edge Tom had such a calm about him."
Does Wishnowsky possess that same zen? It remains to be seen. Coming from the same Prokick pipeline from which Hackett arrived, much is expected.
But then again, that's why Wishnowsky is here.
"I don't mind the big shoes to fill," he said. "Tommy had a ripper career here, and I'm just gonna try to do me."
About Mitch Wishnowsky
• 24 years old, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds
• Averaged 39.8 yards per punt in one season at Santa Barbara City College
• Placed 30 of 63 punts inside the 20-yard line
• Former reserve for Perth in West Australian Football League
• Introduced to American football through Prokick coach Nathan Chapman, who mentored Tom Hackett