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Texas P Michael Dickson could be difference-maker for the 'Horns

The Australian native is an impressive athlete who continues to grow as a football player.

Michael Dickson on his Texas visit
Michael Dickson on his Texas visit

As it had all too many times for Texas Longhorns players, the noxious phrase ran through the head of linebacker Peter Jinkens as long snapper Kyle Ashby sent a hike over the head of freshman punter Michael Dickson with the ‘Horns clinging to a seven-point lead over the Kansas State Wildcats.

"Here we go again."

As a senior, Jinkens had been through his share of blowouts. So had the freshmen by the seventh game of their careers, having lost badly at the hands of Notre Dame and TCU.

So had head coach Charlie Strong.

The other two losses by then?

By four total points.

So forgive Jinkens and Strong and numerous other members of the Longhorns program if they expected the worst in that situation.

Then something remarkable happened.

If a lack of American football experience contributed to the botched catch on a good snap against the Cowboys that ultimately cost the Longhorns that game, the Australian rules football experience of Dickson kicked in.

As he had so many times Down Under, Dickson managed to secure the bouncing football and quickly get off a kick.

Not just a kick, a remarkable kick, as the ball eventually landed inside the Kansas State 10-yard line.

The freshman, who had never kicked an American football in a competitive game before arriving in Austin during the summer, eventually earned Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance, which also included a kick nearly downed inside the five-yard line and a 51-yard punt on his next effort.

Despite inconsistency, inexperience, and that horrific gaffe against Oklahoma State, Dickson earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a freshman in helping the 'Horns rank 26th in net punting and 15th in punt return defense by averaging 41.3 yards per kick with 32 fair catches, 19 punts inside the 20-yard line, and 17 punts over 50 yards.

On the season, opponents returned less than 17 percent of all Dickson's kicks, which gave the Texas punt coverage unit an easy season and made it one of the few areas where the Longhorns were strong on special teams.

The final addition to the 2015 Texas recruiting class, Dickson is a product of the ProKick Australia, which helps train former Australian rules football players like Dickson to prepare them for college football. Many of them have gone on to find success in the NFL.

As Dickson continues to adjust to the game, he should be able to strike the ball more consistently and has a tremendously powerful leg that gives him impressive upside. Strong noted on Saturday that Dickson is getting better with his placement, too.

During the Orange and White game this spring, Dickson had three punts inside the 20 and long punts of 52 yards and 65 yards to provide some insight into his leg strength.

And the play against Kansas State last season wasn't the only evidence of his athleticism, however, as Dickson also made one of the middleweight finals for the Longhorns during the "Battle for the Belts" this summer, a remarkable achievement for a player at a position that doesn't typically feature athletes who can compete physically with the linebackers and tight ends.

He's also one of the top ping-pong players on the team.

Now with 12 games of experience under his belt, Dickson should be able to avoid any more catastrophic mistakes and will continue to be a weapon for Texas on special teams.