It wasn’t too long ago when junior Southern Miss punter Tyler Flathau was kicking at San Antonio Field as a member of the Sacred Heart Crusaders. After a few turns throughout his collegiate career, he’ll put on a black and gold uniform this fall and compete under the lights he’s lived near his entire life.
“That is a few steps up,” Flathau said of playing at M.M. Roberts Stadium. “There is going to be actual turf on the field; no rocks and ant beds. But, San Antonio made me who I am today.”
After playing receiver, safety and, of course punting at Sacred Heart, Flathau spent the next two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he averaged nearly 40 yards a punt during his career. Flathau said playing at the junior college level isn’t as different as Division I. He said most of the returners he was punting to at MGCCC are at Division I schools now.
After his two years in Perkinston, he signed with Arkansas State in November 2016. After a few months there, he felt he needed to come home to Hattiesburg.
Flathau’s grandfather, William Flathau, had recently passed away. Flathau was close to his grandfather, according to Tyler’s father, Jeff Flathau, so he decided he should come back to Hattiesburg and be with his family. After getting in touch with USM coach Jay Hopson about transferring, he filed with the NCAA to be allowed to transfer without sitting out a year.
“(My grandfather) helped my dad out working,” Flathau said. “I decided I was going to come down and help for the summer. It turns out when we filed with the NCAA, I was eligible and coach Hopson called me up to come to camp.”
But before he found out the good news, his status was unknown. Would he have to sit out a year or not? It was out of his control.
“I was not expecting to be eligible,” he said. “I was expecting to just practice this year and be in the stands. I guess I just have that mindset if you have the worst outcome in your mind, anything else is good news. I was just being positive about it, and that phone call made it all real.
“Me and my parents always talked about (playing in Hattiesburg), and it’s just a dream come true really. All of my friends and family will be able to watch, and it’ll be something special.”
When Flathau moved back to Hattiesburg, he began classes at Southern Miss immediately. He also had a luxury he didn’t have while in high school – punting on Sacred Heart’s new football field. He and his father would go out to the Sacred Heart Athletic Facilities nearly every day this summer to punt.
Flathau is ecstatic for Crusaders coach Lonny Schraeder and the football program.
“I was like, ‘Man, this would have been sweet,’” Flathau said about playing on the field. “But, I’m happy for them. Coach Schraeder, he deserves it. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He really formed me into the player I am, because I played receiver and safety there, too, so he taught me how to be a player and a man as well.”
Going into the offseason, Southern Miss knew it’d have to find a new punter. In 2016, Tyler Sarrazin averaged 44.7 yards per punt, 15 punts inside the 20 and 11 50-plus-yard punts, but he graduated. Currently on the roster are two redshirt freshmen, a true freshman, a redshirt junior and a true junior, which is Flathau. The redshirt junior, Parker Shaunfield, will get the kicking duties, but the punting position is wide-open.
“Fall camp is finally here and we’re finally allowed to be on the field with the whole team and get some reps in, which is good,” Flathau said. “They take special teams here serious, so that’s always a plus. We’re just getting after it right and all battling for a spot. There are a bunch of us here, so it’s a cool little competition we have going on.”
Flathau said it’s neck and neck and the winner of the battle will come down to who can be more consistent.