Cowboys punter McBriar happy with this return
By Steve Hunt
Special to The Advertiser
By Steve Hunt
DALLAS — Like his mentor, fellow countryman, and good friend Darren Bennett, former University of Hawai'i athlete Mat McBriar has gone from Australia to the NFL and now to the Pro Bowl.
McBriar, who played for UH from 2000-02, punts for the Dallas Cowboys. On Tuesday, he became only the second Australian to be named to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Bennett, a former San Diego Chargers punter and a close friend of McBriar's, made three trips to Hawai'i during his 11-year NFL career.
"I'm very close to Darren," McBriar said yesterday. "He got me introduced to it all and helped me out with his connection to (UH head coach) June (Jones). He was the first guy I called when I heard the news. He's real excited and proud. It's a big honor in that respect. I feel really blessed."
McBriar is in his third year with the Cowboys. He was originally signed as a free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2003, then was traded to Seattle, which released him. After 14 games, McBriar leads the NFL with a 48.3-yard punting average.
"I feel very honored to be selected," he said. "It wasn't really a goal that I was shooting for. People brought it to my attention during the year, but I was never really focused on it."
Returning to Hawai'i — where he was an all-Western Athletic Conference first-team punter in 2002 — makes the experience even more special.
"I'm looking forward to it," McBriar said. "I feel proud that I went to school there and am coming back. Hawai'i football doesn't generate that much attention. Anything that draws attention to it is great."
McBriar is one of four Cowboys on the squad. Joining him are quarterback Tony Romo, linebacker DeMarcus Ware and safety Roy Williams. "I'm real excited for them," he said. "Demarcus has had two great years and for him to be named now is terrific. Tony has really stepped up and performed well. Roy is the guy that makes it every year. It will be nice to go with some teammates."
McBriar said he expects a large contingent of his family from Australia to make the trip for the Feb. 10 game at Aloha Stadium.
He also looks forward to seeing Jones, his former coach at UH, though he hasn't spoken with Jones as of yet.
"I will see him for sure," he said. "He normally heads to the hotel where the guys are staying since he knows quite a few of the players and coaches. I will catch up with him maybe for a round of golf."