Punting with Johnny Townsend

Being a Punter or a Kicker is a thankless job. If you make a field goal, you were expected to do so or if you boom a 50-yarder – expected. But, if you miss a field goal or shank a punt, players, coaches and fans alike curse your name. It is not very often that punters and kickers are given the credit they deserve. No, in fact, it is seldom that their names are even remembered. Sure, Caleb Sturgis, Chas Henry and a few select others are remembered for a short period of time, but the likelihood is that you remember a few select punters or kickers for what they did wrong one or two times, rather than the dependability they offered.

I like to consider myself pretty well understanding of the game of football. Sure, I understand formations, I know what an offensive line pull is and I can scout players decently well (I think). But there are two positions however. that I don’t consider myself particularly erudite on: punting and kicking. So, to learn more, I sat down with Florida Gators 2013 signee Johnny Townsend to learn more about the position and what goes into becoming a great punter.

Dan: Johnny, thanks for chatting with me, talk to me about learning how to punt, what are the most important things to learn right off the bat?

Johnny: Proper stepping pattern, how to approach the ball and the proper way to hold and drop the ball.

Dan: OK, seems easy enough. Let’s break that down. What is the best form to take when punting? Mind you, I am a green shoe when it comes to this.

Johnny: Proper punting involves quick, short steps to the ball, making sure not to over stride. Then, lean your body forward so that the momentum takes you downfield. Finally, your leg needs to be fully extended after contact and your follow through should be a straight swing finishing next to your ear.

Dan: So kind of like a golf swing, in a way?

Johnny: Exactly like a golf swing. Keep your head down and don’t overswing.

Dan: All of that makes sense, but let’s look at the in-between step of dropping the ball. What does that look like? There must be different ways to drop it, no?

Johnny: Of course.You hold it however is most comfortable for you. The ball drop completely depends on the situation. If the nose of the ball is down when you drop it, the ball is going to travel at a lower altitude. This makes sense when you are going into the wind. If you drop the ball with the nose up, you are trying to give it the most hang, not allowing them to have much of a return.

Dan: Is there any ball drop that is the most consistent? What separates good drops from bad drops?

Johnny: It all depends on the contact point of the ball. The flat drop is going to be the most consistent. The biggest downfall for punters is the drop. The drop affects everything in the punt; hang time, spiral, distance and accuracy are all a result of a good drop.

Dan: I figured. Back to the motion, I’ve noticed some kickers step more than others, what is your “go-to” for step count?

Johnny: I take two steps so that my “catch-to-kick” time is faster.

Dan: I’ll take that advice when I start practice punting. OK. So, I want to be a punter, what do I need to do to be able to swing my leg above my head?

Johnny: A lot of quick twitch exercises. Work on your core, start running and stretching all help. I stretch every night to stay flexible.

Dan: Perfect. I currently do very few of those things. I was looking for more ways to occupy my time! Johnny, I appreciate your time and going over a quick study on punting. I certainly learned a bit and I hope our readers did, too.

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Daniel Thompson
Dan Thompson is a 2010 graduate of the University Florida, graduating with a degree in Economics and a degree in Political Science. During this time at UF, Dan worked three years for the Florida Gator Football team as a recruiting ambassador. Dan dealt daily with prospects, NCAA guidelines, and coaching staff. Dan was also involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government and Greek Life. Currently, Dan oversees the IT consulting practice of a Tampa-based company. Dan enjoys golfing, country music, bourbon, travel, oysters, and a medium-rare steak. Dan can be found on Twitter at @DK_Thompson.