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By ASHLEY SCOBY
They are the ones who are on the field prior to a game before any of their teammates. They’re the ones who are most likely to be blamed for a close loss. They are, nine times out of 10, the most flexible guys on a football team. Yet they are the ones considered “not as athletic” as most other football players.
If you haven’t guessed “kickers/punters” yet, you probably don’t watch enough football.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a football announcer talk about the kicker or punter of a football team being taken off the soccer team, and he’s great with his feet but otherwise not very athletic. Yeah? Me too.
UK freshman Landon Foster is coming to Lexington to change that. The 6’1, 200-pounder out of Franklin, Tennessee is already getting looked at as more than the typical punter. I talked to Foster at Media Day last week about how the fans view his position and how crucial his position actually is to the outcome of a football game.
“They (the fans) realize how important Ryan (Tydlacka) was, how important Tim (Masthay) was, they understand that,” he said. “First they didn’t realize I was the punter until a couple days ago. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re the kicker?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, why?’ and he said, ‘you look like a wide receiver.’”
Foster was recruited to be mainly a punter, especially during his freshman year, but he is versatile enough to place-kick as well – something he did successfully for his high school team. He was also named his high school team’s MVP – not a bad honor at all for someone who is not a quarterback, star linebacker, etc.
At Joker Phillips’ Media Day press conference, he stressed the importance of athleticism in whichever punter Kentucky puts on the field, saying that you didn’t “have to be athletic to be a kicker, but you have to be athletic to be a punter.”
Flexibility and speed are two qualities not normally assumed when thinking about a punter or kicker, but they are two of the most significant qualities for them to have. In addition to their position work, players with this job also perform the same strength/conditioning/team drills as the rest of the players – from offensive linemen to cornerbacks.
“We work just as hard as everyone else,” Foster said. “We’re actually the first ones in the Nutter and probably the last ones out. We’ve got to take extraordinary care of our body. And everyone else, yeah they’re doing a lot of running, but we run with them, we do everything with them. But at the same time, we have to stretch a lot more, we have to focus more on technique.”
So far, Foster is making a name for himself in UK’s early practices, as he competes with Joe Mansour for the punting position. By the fourth practice, Joker was already Foster’s his praises, saying that he was the “fastest we’ve ever had” in regards to getting the ball off during a punt. With the speed of the SEC, it’s crucial that UK’s punter, whoever it may be, punts the ball as quickly as possible to avoid a block (to state the obvious).
Whether Foster ends up with punting duties or not this season, he will make his mark on the program at some point in the near future. It’s hard to ignore the kind of athleticism this guy has, and it’s likely the coaches are thinking along the same lines.