Rice punter would give the tattered shirt off his back to help team, child
How else can James Farrimond’s three-year-old practice shirt survive? Or should it even be referred to as a shirt?
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“If you saw the shirt you would not call it a shirt, it is more of a rag,” said Rice’s senior punter. “It’s in shambles and I have to very delicately put it on.”
That is pretty much the routine Farrimond employs every Tuesday and Thursday. Those are the days he works on his punting during practice. When he is done there is no way the shirt can be mixed in and washed with other clothing lest it disintegrate.
“I can’t throw it in the team washing machine with other clothes after practice because it got ripped up early this season,” he said.
The shirt was given to Owls players prior to the 2012 season with the message “Unfinished Business” on front. Farrimond liked the shirt, cut the sleeves, started wearing it the second week of that season and kept on wearing it every practice.
As a walk-on who redshirted in 2011 and saw action in only two games in 2012, the shirt’s message sums up how his career with the Owls has evolved.
“It is kind of a symbol of where I was and where I am now and it reminds to always work hard no matter what,” he said. “I came to Rice as a walk-on and my first couple of years I kind of had to sit back and realize that I was not as good as I thought I was. I know “Unfinished Business” is kind of a cliché, but for me it was kind of like, ‘Alright, I am going to come to work every single day and do what needs to be done to get on the field.’”
Farrimond has certainly done what was needed. He took over the punting chores in 2013 and never looked back. After averaging 42.1 and 42.0 yards per punt the past two seasons he is averaging 43.0 this year. Last week he earned Ray Guy Award Player of the Week honors after averaging 51.2 yards on five punts, four of which landed inside the 20, against UTEP.
“The shirt gave me the power to punt well,” he said chuckling. “I started punting better during practice in 2012 and found a groove. I especially did better in the spring of 2013 before I ended up starting. Maybe it is a little superstitious, and I wanted to be a little different.”
His pregame routine is a little different in that he listens to the classical music of Ludovico Einaudi as a means to relax prior each game.
If Farrimond is indeed different, well, don’t change. An Academic All-Conference USA selection a year ago, the San Antonio native has given much time to helping youths, including those with special needs. This season the Owls brought on board a seven-year-old boy suffering from leukemia, Ziggy Stoval-Redd, to be honorary captain. Farrimond was in charge of creating a fund-raising web site to help the young man’s family.
“In the grand scheme of things we have it made,” he said. “He kind of humbles you, brings you back to earth and makes you realize there is more to life than football. Ziggy has made an impact on my life and those of my teammates as well.”
Farrimond’s shirt could continue to have an impact even after his final punt at Rice, which could be on Thanksgiving weekend or longer if the 4-5 Owls qualify for a bowl.
The school is building a new facility in the north end of Rice Stadium that, among other things, will house a new locker room, staff offices and a team lounge. A couple members of the equipment crew have inquired about keeping the shirt around.
“I don’t know if they were joking or not, but I kind of talked about putting it in a frame and giving it to them,” said Farrimond. “I think it would be kind of cool to put it up in their equipment room. But if they don’t take it, I will probably keep it, hang it up and we’ll see how long it lasts.”
Top and above: James Farrimond earned Ray Guy Award Player of the Week honors after averaging 51.2 yards on five punts against UTEP. (Courtesy Rice Sports Information)