To some it is known as “Laughs”. For others, it goes through “Hardy”. His football coach calls him “Air Force” and is not quite sure what his real name is. Whatever his current nickname is, Charles “Archer” Trafford V of the State of Mississippi might just be the most interesting punter in the world.

Before Trafford came to Starkville, Mississippi with the dream of playing in the National Football League, he was an Air Force Academy cadet, a third-generation Eagle Scout, and one of the nation’s top teen archers. with an indoor track for the 2020 Olympics. He is also an accomplished cellist, keen catamaran enthusiast and occasionally an armadillo hunter at his family’s home outside of Shreveport, La.

“I don’t like to brag about my past,” Trafford said in an interview. This is part of the reason why Mike Leach, his Mississippi State football coach, didn’t know last summer that his punter named “Archer” was once a world-class shooter in the Olympic recurve discipline who competed in 87 countries as a teenager.

“I vaguely knew he was a good archer,” Leach said.

After The Wall Street Journal contacted Leach for this article, he added, “I looked at the bio on him and he shot a lot more arrows than I thought he would. “

Archer Trafford competing in 2016


Photo:

Amy skelton

Trafford’s path to start soccer balls in the Southeastern Conference is about as winding as they come, and it’s impossible to understand “Archer the Bettor” without first knowing “Hardy the Archer” .

Born in Budapest and raised in a small town in Louisiana, Trafford believes he first picked up a bow and arrows around the age of 2. Her parents Charlene and Charles “Skip” Trafford IV were themselves decorated archers, representing the United States at numerous world archery championships, and ensured that Trafford and each of her three older sisters were in the sport from a young age. For years growing up, the first thing the Trafford siblings did after they got home from school was hit the 90-yard-long shooting range in their backyard.

The Traffords taught their children to shoot barebow, a difficult style of archery that didn’t involve a sight or stabilizer. Around the age of 14, when the son switched to recurve archery – the style contested in Olympic archery competitions that is most emphasized by USA Archery – his intuitive feel for the archery propelled to the podium and earned him an invitation to join the National Body’s Junior Dream. Team.

“Hardy, when he was young, was so tenacious. He was a bit like a little bulldog: he would grab something and not let go until he finally got it, ”said his former shooting trainer Dee Falks, now National Director of the League. ‘Archery Association.

When he was finally old enough for CE Byrd High School, Trafford did what most Louisiana teens do in the fall and went out for the football team. A gifted athlete, albeit lanky, he played almost every specialist offensive position, including wide receiver and quarterback (his first achievement was an 80-yard touchdown pass). But his father encouraged him to prioritize kicking, a relatively safe position that would prevent him from injuring himself too much to practice on target.

Archer Trafford says he first picked up a bow and arrows around the age of 2.


Photo:

Pass Trafford

His parents made weekend road trips from western Louisiana to Mt. Jolliet, Tenn., And Colorado Springs, Colo., To allow their son to receive private coaching on his shooting and shots. of foot. The family added goal posts to the far end of their backyard shooting range to help Trafford with a different kind of target training.

“He’s a remarkable kid,” said Bob Lucchesi, a Colorado-based kicking coach who previously helped transform Trafford from an average high school kicker into one of Louisiana’s top bettors. “He’s definitely a unique guy and he’s got talent for the NFL.”

Lucchesi remembers the Traffords paying him $ 200 for two weekends of one-on-one training for their son before his senior football season at CE Byrd. At the end of the punting sessions, their son regularly threw 50 meter bombs. That fall, Trafford won all-district first team honors less than two years after first attempting a punt.

“I don’t think he was ever forced to choose one over the other,” Falks said. “It was more like doing it all the best you can. “

But by the time Trafford was in his final year of high school, he was faced with a choice: move to the Olympic training center to train as a resident athlete with the goal of making the United States team for the Games. 2020 Olympics or go to college for further education. Trafford chose the latter, choosing to continue his family’s military tradition by enrolling in the Air Force Academy after receiving letters of appointment from nine different members of Congress.

Trafford joined the Air Force football team as the preferred replacement in 2019 and competed for the starting gig with Charlie Scott, who went on to join the 2021 Alabama National Championship squad. It was there that he adopted a new nickname after his pilot’s call: “Archer”. However, the kicking in college came at the expense of archery, as there is no formal team in the Air Force despite attempts by Trafford’s older sister Rachael. to revive it.

Trafford said the lessons he learned on the archery range carried over to the grill.

“With archery you can’t have that football rage where you can just build muscle to get past everything. You have to stay calm and make sure your technique stays consistent,” Trafford said. “He added,” is similar. “A tiny little thing can make it completely explode. Everything has to be perfect.”

Trafford’s competitive mindset extended his footballing aspirations beyond the Air Force to the pros. He feared that the academy’s strict service requirements for graduates could cut short a possible NFL career. He made the difficult decision to retire from his father’s and two sisters’ alma mater in 2020.

Trafford then enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and accepted a job as a gym manager so he could use more elevators. He became a “total gym rat” over the next nine months, estimating that he worked out about three hours a day and gained over 60 pounds of muscle.

“It’s huge for a bettor,” Lucchesi said. Trafford jokes on his Instagram profile that he is a “specialist trapped in the body of a linebacker”. Leach says his punter is “a bit thick and is kind of built for the fight.”

By the end of his “inflation” phase, Trafford had improved his punt distance from 45-50 meters to 60-70 meters and his hang time from 4.6 seconds to over 5 seconds. He impressed in several Kohl’s kicking presentations in the spring of 2021, and went on to get tries at several universities with the help of Lucchesi’s friend and NFL agent Craig Doman.

The first two were forgettable. But something about Trafford caught Leach’s attention when he came to the state of Mississippi. It was then that Trafford acquired another nickname for the trainer best known for his pass-heavy “Air Raid” attack: “Air Force”.

Archer Trafford has averaged 42.4 yards per punt this season.


Photo:

Brent Soule / Zuma Press

The sophomore redshirt averages 42.4 yards per punt and with a few more years to develop consistency, his coach thinks he has a real shot at playing on Sunday.

After learning more about her punter’s past life, however, Leach came up with some new ideas.

“Bow hunting is really big in the state of Mississippi… I’ve shot a little, but it’s been a long, long time,” Leach said, realizing he knew a really good archer who could do it. ‘help brush up on skills.

“It wouldn’t be the worst idea if I had some free time and he didn’t travel around the world to beat the Chinese, Russians, English, French and Spanish.”

Write to Laine Higgins at [email protected]

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