ASHBURN — Unsure what the boss needed to talk about, Tress Way’s heart started racing Tuesday when Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan called out of the blue.
The Redskins punter had nothing to worry about. Callahan told the 29-year-old the news — Way had not only made the Pro Bowl, but he was named the starting punter for the NFC.
“I said, ‘Coach, thank you. If you don’t mind, I’m going to hang up because my wife is here and I’m going to start crying,” Way said.
Way and Redskins guard Brandon Scherff were named Pro Bowl starters, while safety Landon Collins and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis are alternates.
A day later, Way was still thrilled.
Teammates and coaches enthusiastically greeted him Wednesday, and team president Bruce Allen, a former punter himself, came up to Way at practice and hugged him as the two exchanged pleasantries over the honor.
Named an alternate last year, Way has put together another stellar season, one good enough to finally get to him to Orlando in January. This season, Way leads the league with the longest punt (79 yards) and in yards per punt (49.4). He is the first Redskins punter to be named to the Pro Bowl since Mark Turk in 1998.
To Callahan, Way’s selection is a measure of the “great lengths” Way has gone through to change his technique, changes that have helped him transform into one of the league’s best punters.
“Here’s another guy that’s just remarkable,” Callahan said. “I’m so proud of him and happy for his accomplishment.”
Now when Way goes back to punt, he lines up offset from the center — which allows him to better disguise which direction the ball will go once he kicks. In the past, the Oklahoma product would swing his leg right across his body, partially tipping off returners on where the ball would land, Way said.
Way got the technique from the Rams’ Johnny Hekker and Baltimore’s Sam Koch, two of the league’s longtime elite punters. He started to implement it upon the arrival of special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor this year. Way said the switch has “paid off huge” this season.
“It just says a lot about him and his work ethic,” long snapper Nick Sundberg said. “Kind of doing some self-scouting and realizing, ‘Hey, I’m better than what I’ve been doing and I can do more.’”
Way, meanwhile, is still adjusting to the fact he’ll be going to the Pro Bowl.
He didn’t know what to expect, initially thinking he’d find out the result at 8 p.m. when the league officially announced the teams. When he arrived to the team’s facility on Wednesday, Way received a packet of information about the trip. All of it is “surreal,” he said.
When it comes time to actually play in the Pro Bowl, however, Way has his mind made up about one thing: Don’t ask him to run a fake punt — emphasis on run.
While he would be willing to throw off a fake, Way is well aware of the famous punter highlight in the Pro Bowl history, when Redskins safety Sean Taylor blasted Bills punter Brian Moorman in 2006.
“For the love of God, I am not running the ball,” Way said. “That is not — no.”