‘The people that I play for’: Punter Tory Taylor’s family visits U.S. to watch Iowa football

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the punter’s family finally made the trip from Australia to Iowa City to see him play.


Grace Smith

Iowa punter Tory Taylor warms up before a football game between Iowa and Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa football punter Tory Taylor has racked up a lot of honors.

The 2020 Big Ten Punter of the Year set Iowa’s single-season record with 3,688 punting yards last year, averaging 46.1 per boot. He was a 2021-22 semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter.

But the 25-year-old Australian wanted to accomplish one specific thing before he graduated from Iowa: have his family attend one of his games.

“That’s probably the one thing that I’m most excited about, out of anything,” Taylor said in a 2021 interview with The Daily Iowan. “That’s probably my biggest dream, to get my friends and family in the stands for one game. So, I feel like, when that happens, that’s probably one thing I can really tick off my list and yeah, it will make me really happy, just because they’re all the people that I play for.”

Taylor committed to Iowa in 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When the Melbourne native traveled to Iowa that summer, he had to quarantine for three weeks in Sydney before getting on a plane. He had to do another two-week quarantine after he arrived in Iowa City.

Taylor had limited opportunities to return to Australia in 2020 and 2021 because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“My move from California was not halfway across the world, but it felt like that at first,” senior quarterback Spencer Petras said on Sept. 6. “It definitely feels like that … So, I can’t tell you enough how hard I’m sure it was on him, not being able to go home for so long. But you wouldn’t tell just by the way he carries himself. He’s such a good guy.”

Taylor’s family originally planned to come to the U.S. and watch a game at Kinnick Stadium before his third year on the Hawkeye football team. But Australia’s COVID-19 rules — which were more restrictive than those in the U.S. — prevented the family from making the trip.

Until now.

Taylor’s family, including his parents, grandparents, and brothers, flew into San Francisco ahead of Iowa’s game against South Dakota State on Sept. 3. The family spent a couple of days in San Francisco before traveling to Las Vegas for three days. Finally, they got to Iowa City on Sept. 8 — their favorite stop so far.

RELATED: ‘This kid is a freak’: Tory Taylor’s 10 punts aid Iowa in season-opening win

“[Iowa is] so pretty. It’s beautiful,” Stuart Taylor, Tory’s father, told The Daily Iowan

. “The people are just awesome, friendly, hospitable, can’t complain at all thus far.”

The Taylor family also got their first taste of American football when Iowa took on Iowa State.

But first, they got a look at Iowa City’s tailgating culture. The Taylors tailgated with friends and family of Riley Moss, Terry Roberts, and Noah Shannon, among others.

“The tailgating, that was an eye-opener,” Stuart said. “And we didn’t know what to expect. We sort of knew what to expect in the stadium. But yeah, the tailgating, that was crazy.”

Heading into Kinnick, the family sat in the Hawkeye friends and family section in the west grandstands.

As Iowa players swarmed, Stuart heard a familiar tune: “Back in Black” by AC/DC. The band originated in Australia, and Stuart grew up a fan.

“The original frontman was from Melbourne, where Tory’s from, where we’re from, and it felt like a little bit of home,” Stuart said. “It was good. Especially, I think they played two AC/DC songs.”

The Hawkeye anthem — which plays every time Iowa players walk out of the tunnel — could’ve felt like home to Tory as well. But the punter didn’t know of the band’s origins.

“I didn’t [know] until my dad told me,” Tory said about AC/DC being an Australian band. “He told me earlier in the year, I think, but I actually had no idea that it was an Australian band. It’s kind of ironic, I think, that I’m walking out to an Australian band. Like I always say, the best bands come from Australia.”

After the swarm, the Taylor family found themselves in the middle of a heated rivalry game. Decked out in “Punting is Winning” and “I cheer for the punter” t-shirts, they were surrounded by 69,250 Hawkeye and Cyclone fans.

Contributed photo of Tory Taylor’s family.

“I kind of just said, I was like, ‘Look, I’m telling you, like, it’s gonna be crazy loud. So yeah, just be ready for it,’” Tory said on Sept. 6. “But they kind of understand it. But you know, like myself, I really never knew how loud it was until what, was it last year? About a year ago?”

The family heeded Tory’s warning, to some degree.

“He did mention it would be really loud,” Tanya Taylor, Tory’s mother, said. “It was probably louder than I was thinking it might’ve been, but it was fun. The atmosphere was awesome.”

“You don’t notice, I’ll be honest, when you’re in the moment,” Stuart added.

Soon after the game started, the Taylor family finally got what they came for — watching Tory play. Tory kicked the first of his six punts in the middle of the first quarter.

“A bit nerve wracking,” Stuart said of watching Tory punt in person for the first time. “We just wanted him to do well. Obviously, whilst we wanted to see him punt, once or twice would have been fine for us, but not six times.”

The family also witnessed Tory punt in a torrential downpour, which started in the third quarter.

Although the weather wasn’t ideal, the Taylors were used to it — their hometown of Melbourne is traditionally rainy.

“I wouldn’t normally stand out there and get wet,” Tanya said.

“I was prepared to sit out there and get like a drowned rat,” Stuart responded.

Since arriving in Iowa City, the family has met some of Tory’s current and former Hawkeye teammates, including Moss, Logan Lee, Keith Duncan, and Ryan Gersonde. They haven’t, however, met Petras yet — something the family is looking forward to.

RELATED:  Australian ‘Punter from Down Under’ Tory Taylor continues to excel with Iowa football

Petras said he’s met Tory’s parents on FaceTime, and added that he hopes to meet them face-to-face soon.

“I think they enjoyed the game and I know Tory’s been spending a lot of time with them,” Petras said. “But I’m sure I’ll hopefully be able to spend some time with them this month coming up soon.”

The family is planning to stay in the U.S. for around five weeks to attend at least three Iowa home matchups, counting the Cy-Hawk game. The Taylors plan to watch Tory punt against Nevada on Saturday and Michigan Oct. 1.

While Tory is busy with football and schoolwork, the family is taking time to travel around the country. Part of the family went to Minneapolis and Chicago this week, while Tory’s twin brother, Ben, jetted to Miami with his girlfriend.

While five weeks is a long time to be away from home and work, Stuart said the family is happy to be out of COVID-19 lockdown and able to travel again. Stuart said he works for himself, as well.

“We’re pretty flexible, but we’ve sort of worked through where we could,” Stuart said. “Normally, you get four weeks of annual leave in Australia anyway. We just had to take an extra week, neither here nor there.”