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Some Thoughts About the Aesthetics of Punting

I played football in a rec league from fourth grade through eighth grade. I was a small kid but I had a strong leg, so I sometimes ended up as the punter. My coaches gave me a few pointers, but mostly I just tried to mimic the NFL punters who I saw on TV. All of those guys held the ball horizontally out in front of them and then dropped it so that it laid parallel to the ground as it fell (just like Rams punter Johnny Hekker is doing in the photo shown above), so that’s what I did too. I learned certain variations — drop the ball from a higher position if you want the punt to go high but not as far, drop it from a lower position if you want it to go low and long — but the ball’s horizontal orientation was a constant.

Around that same time, I was obsessively reading and re-reading a 1960 book about the NFL called The Pros, which featured a two-page spread of punters dropping the ball in that same horizontal manner. The accompanying text even referred to the ball being “dropped precisely flat and level” (click to enlarge):

Judging by other old photos and video, it appears that punters had pretty much always punted like that, with the ball staying parallel to the ground. And they kept on punting that way for a long time. There were a few guys who had their little quirks — Reggie Roby, for example, always held the ball really high (and, as all good uni-watchers know, wore a wristwatch on the field). For the most part, though, punters’ styles and forms were pretty interchangeable.

But at some point in recent years — I’m not sure exactly when — a new way of thinking came into vogue. Depending on the situation, punters began dropping the ball with the nose pointing down:

Every time I see a punter drop the ball this way, I wince. Part of it is that it’s not the way I learned to punt and not what I grew up seeing. Mostly, though, I wince because I always think it looks like a shanked punt waiting to happen. Like, if you keep the ball horizontal, then you have a nice, broad surface to strike with your foot. But if you point the nose down — well, then you’re gonna kick the nose, and that’s not going to turn out well at all. Imagine a horizontal ball landing on the ground (it’ll bounce fairly true) versus a nose-down ball landing on the ground (it’ll bounce in all sorts of crazy directions). The same thing will happen on your foot, right?

Of course, that’s not how it actually works. The nose-down ball also presents a broad surface to impact — you just have to hit it when it’s lower to the ground, so your foot is properly angled to mate with the ball, as nicely demonstrated in these photos of Broncos punter Riley Dixon:

I’m pretty sure this is a variation of — and an improvement upon — the old “drop it lower, kick it lower and farther” routine, right? Maybe some people with legitimate punting expertise can fill us in on that. But this website is about aesthetics, and this new-ish way of punting, with the nose pointed down, just does not look right to me. Nossir.

What do you folks think?

•  •  •  •  •

Click to enlarge

Naval gazing: Yesterday we had Army’s uniform for the annual Army/Navy game. Now we have the Navy design, which is based on the team’s 1963 uniforms. Here’s some additional info and photos.

Phil will take an in-depth look at the Army and Navy uniforms on Saturday, so you’ll want to check back here for that.

• • • • •

T-Shirt Club reminder: In case you missed it last week, the Uni Watch T-Shirt Club’s final design of 2016 is now available for ordering. The design is a mash-up of uniform elements from all of our previous 2016 shirts (click to enlarge):

The only new element is the baseball cap (which didn’t appear on our baseball-themed shirt because the player was wearing a batting helmet). It’s comes in four color options — our usual grey, black, green, plus a new “military green” (that’s what the manufacturer calls it, although I’d just call it light olive) — and is also available with either short or long sleeves.

The shirt will be available through this Friday. The shirts are due to ship right after Christmas, so they should arrive in time for you to wear them on New Year’s Eve. (I had hoped to have them delivered in time for Christmas, but it just wasn’t possible to get things finalized in time for that. Sorry.)

If you’ve ordered all five of this year’s previous shirts and also get this one, you’ll be eligible for our year-end “Collect ’Em All” prize, which will be a patch based on the jock tag design used on this year’s shirts. To qualify, please send me proof that you’ve bought all six shirts. The proof can either be (a) a photo showing all the shirts or (b) screen shots of the “Thank you for your order” emails you received from Teespring and Represent.

Once again, the new shirt can be ordered here. Thanks for your consideration.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: The Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 next season. Interestingly, the retirement date, May 14, is Mother’s Day, which means the Yanks might be wearing pink for Jeter’s festivities. … Fun stat: Red Sox INF Travis Shaw hit 16 home runs in seven different jerseys last season. … Chris Sale, Red Sox, something-something, throwbacks, something, scissors, something-something.

NFL News: Marriott — the hotel company — has been helping out NFL gameday tailgaters by sending out supplies and provisions that are delivered by crews dressed in bellhop uniforms. … Some Cowboys players made holiday-season visits to a local children’s hospital. They wore team jerseys with ad patches (from Brent, who prefers that his last name not be used). … The Titans-Browns custom cleats fiasco — first the players were told they could wear the cleats this Sunday, then they couldn’t, then they finally could after all — shows that the NFL can’t get out of its own way (thanks, Phil). … The Seahawks are apparently installing green end zones (from @IPA_Hunter). … Someone on eBay is selling an L.A. Rams 1978 cheerleader’s uniform. The cheer squad at the time was called — get this – the Embraceable Ewes. Yes, really. … This is pretty funny: a T-shirt that mimics an Ezekiel Elliott crop-top jersey with his exposed abs.

Hockey News: The Blues have a jersey-style display of retired numbers on a wall outside their locker room, with the players’ names all shown as FNOBs (from Moe Khan). … The Predators added a small helmet decal last night for the East Tennessee forest fire victims (from The Soulful Ginger). … If you’ve been wondering what an NHL version of Color Rash would look like, wonder no more (thanks, Mike). … Awesome 1938 throwbacks for the Alaska Nanooks (from Mike Eidelbes).

Basketball News: This is pretty good: underwear that looks like NBA game shorts (thanks, Mike). … Wake Forest wore grey alts last night. As you can see, the jersey design splits “Wake” and “Forest” over two lines, but the school’s style guide says the school name should always appear on one line (excellent contribution from Will Lawson). … Florida State wore red at home last night. … New BFBS alts last night for Texas. Sorry, that’s the best picture I could find (from @HomeWhites82).

Soccer News: UNC won’t use certain keeper jersey colors. No red, because of NC State, and no royal blue, because of Duke. … Rainbow-patterned jerseys in support of LGBT rights in the video game FIFA 17 has run afoul of a Russian law that prohibits “gay propaganda.” … The Carolina Railhawks are now being known as NCFC and are aiming to become part of MLS (from @EleteTSC). … England is about to announce a new kit deal with Nike (thanks, Phil).

Grab Bag: There’s an operation called the Sport Gallery that has locations in Toronto, NYC, and Vancouver. They sell mostly retro-themed photos, apparel, and related merch. Ted Arnold recently visited the Toronto outlet and took these photos. … New kit manufacturer for the Super Rugby team Sharks. … This is pretty cool: cycling gloves with built-in turn signals. … An architecture firm in Chicago wants to use Pink Floyd-style pig ballons to obscure the city’s Trump Tower logo. … New uniforms for the Nevada Highway Patrol. … Socks are reportedly the holiday season’s most popular gift. Key quote, from the owner of a sock-centric website: ” It’s a way to express yourself. Sometimes having the ”˜f’-word on your socks, even if nobody else can see them, is enough to get you through the day.” I’m not sure if something invisible qualifies as “express[ing] yourself,” but, uh, okay. … The historic Nike Moon Shoes that Bruce Mortenson wore at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, are up for auction.

60 comments to Some Thoughts About the Aesthetics of Punting

  • Alex Dewitt | December 7, 2016 at 7:29 am |

    As for punters, I got to go on the field for pre-game between the Rams and Lions this year and Hekker practices both ways. From what it looked like the nose-drop speeds the balls travel through the air (hangtime was much shorter) so maybe it’s that?

    • JohnM | December 8, 2016 at 2:20 pm |

      My understanding is that dropping the ball nose down causes the ball to “chuckup” when it lands (sort of like a golf shot onto the green). From what I can gather, punter use the nose down approach when the distance to the end zone is such that the horizontal drop is likely to cause the ball to roll toward and probably into the end zone for a touchback rather than come to rest inside the 5 yard line. Many moons ago (like 50), I practiced punting both ways although I had no coaching or knowledge of the aerodynamic differences. Part of my reason was to also practice the drop kick. (which I never mastered – LOL).

  • James MacNeil | December 7, 2016 at 7:31 am |

    Nose down is how we kick the footy down here Paul. “Drop punts” (with backspin) are for precision.

    • James MacNeil | December 7, 2016 at 7:40 am |

      “Torps” (torpedo/spirals) travel further but are harder to get hold of/kick accurately. Wait til they bring over “bananas”.

    • Jimbo | December 7, 2016 at 8:37 am |

      The point down style shows the influence of Aussie rules football & rugby on the NFL.

      In the near future you’ll see punters also moving out of the pocket before punting it away. This style has been growing in popularity in college: http://collegefootball.ap.org/article/rugby-punts-bounding-through-college-football

      It will be more difficult in the NFL due to the superior skills of those on the punt block team. In youth football, which I’ve coached for years, it is a great weapon!

  • Jay B | December 7, 2016 at 7:34 am |

    I like the different punt styles for different types of kicks. Reminds me of different pitch grips, or closing a 7-iron slightly to hit a different shot. Plus, something announcers could talk about instead of “this guy, I like this guy”. Win-win-win

  • Dumb Guy | December 7, 2016 at 8:00 am |

    These young whippersnappers with their crazy new-fangled punting style and horribly-fonted jerseys. I tell you, back in my day……

    Btw Paul, they’ve also outlawed the kicking toe attachment.

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2187/2495578965_bdbe5282ca_b.jpg

    j/k I often think back to my dyas playing football (as a kid a LONG time ago) and wonder why they don’t do it like I used to. It worked for me then–why not them now??

  • Dumb Guy | December 7, 2016 at 8:05 am |

    “…get this — the Embraceable Ewes. Yes, really. ”

    Again I am showing my age, but I thought that was common knowledge.

    And for all you young youngsters out there “Embraceable You” is pretty much a pop/ jazz standard.

    • DenverGregg | December 7, 2016 at 8:23 am |

      Heck, I didn’t know they’d ever dropped that moniker.

      • Jerry | December 7, 2016 at 8:37 am |

        The original “ewes” unis had a ram horn in the from, with an opening in the middle, highlighting the cleavage . After the reveal, they took some heat, and toned it down. Sorry, no picture, but I’m sure there’s a few out there.

        • mild bill | December 7, 2016 at 12:34 pm |

          Anyone know the significance of #25?

  • Dumb Guy | December 7, 2016 at 8:09 am |

    “cycling gloves with built-in turn signals.”

    I already have a built-in turn signal–it’s called my left arm.

    • Alex Dewitt | December 7, 2016 at 8:24 am |

      Well not many drivers (or non-hardcore cyclists for that matter)know the proper usage of up/down/straight symbols.

  • RickAZ | December 7, 2016 at 8:13 am |

    I like the Navy uniforms, but I’d prefer they stick with their traditional gold instead of yellow.

    • arrScott | December 7, 2016 at 5:27 pm |

      Even with the more primary colors, Navy will look like Navy on the field. Anyone tuning into the game will know which players are Navy. Whereas Army won’t look like Army, and anyone who doesn’t already know about their dreary special uniforms will likely wonder for a second whether they’ve tuned into the right game.

  • Iain | December 7, 2016 at 8:19 am |

    Re. The Sport Gallery ticker item. They own the Sport magazine photo archive. The photos on display at the Toronto store are fantastic.

    • Wade Heidt | December 7, 2016 at 9:54 am |

      I have been through The Sport Gallery here in Vancouver. It is in an area where you would not expect to find a sports memorabilia shop. However, the location is very cool. It is near pier space on Granville Island. A tourist area with much foot traffic so it is ideal.

      It is definitely worth a visit when at Granville Island. Many high-end items that are of interest. Things like cuff links that are made from old baseballs. Even the more affordable throwback merch they have is top notch. I pretty much wanted to buy everything in the store.

      • Wafflebored | December 7, 2016 at 11:46 am |

        Yup, the Vancouver location is excellent and a must-visit. Beautiful store, photos and merchandise. James, Colin, and Ian are all great guys who know their stuff.

  • Mike | December 7, 2016 at 8:22 am |

    That’s actually the best way to get hang time on a punt. If you’re watching a game the ball is no longer rotating end of end but actually a spiral. It makes the punt far more accurate.

    I punted in high school was recruited and went to a bunch of different college camps and work with a few NFL punters. Andy Lee and I forget the others name.

    • Eltee of DC | December 7, 2016 at 11:10 am |

      Well said Mike,

      I learned this technique (kicking the pointy end of the ball in a dead sprint) playing club side rugby in SoCali in the late 1970’s, our coach, the great Don Ladesich hammered in our heads that punting a rugby ball was a tactical move, that hang time allowed the kicker to sprint to the landing point of the ball thereby bringing the rest of his teammates onside in force. If a kicker was efficient and accurate he could dictate the course of a match by forcing the opponent to start deep in their territory or placing the ball in an unguarded spot on the pitch to break down a strong defense.

      The coach also reminded us not too subtly that “Tactical kicking allowed an inferior team (in manpower and talent-like us) to keep matches close, giving yourselves a fighting chance to win at the end if you had the heart and the legs to do it.”

      I took out all the colorful metaphors he added for flair and elan, but that was the gist of what he said.

      p.s.
      The first time I heard this quote, well it also came out of Coach Ladesich’s mouth.
      “Old age and cunning, beats youth and inexperience every time.”

  • Leon | December 7, 2016 at 8:44 am |

    Dropping the ball nose down creates a back spin (as James MacNeil already mentioned). When the ball comes back down it does not bounce further downfield, but up again or even slightly back. This technique is used to pin down your opponent deep in their own half and decreases the risk of touchbacks.

    There is an interesting video from NFL Films Presents that explains all this: https://youtu.be/5oZYO0FbZ_A

    • Scott Mason | December 7, 2016 at 10:23 am |

      You were thinking about the same thing I was…I saw that NFL Films Presents and I was amazed by all of the different things Koch can do with the football. For so long, I have kicked it back and forth with my son trying to get the ball to turn over. Now, I throw in an occasional point-down kick…my issue is that it hurts a lot more because you kick the point of the football if you miss at all.

    • Dan Pfeifer | December 7, 2016 at 11:09 am |

      This strikes me as the best explanation. You’ve see a lot fewer footballs bounce into the end zone in the last 10 years than you used to see at the pro level.

  • David | December 7, 2016 at 8:51 am |

    Brief digression…I noticed in some of yesterday’s digital mockups of the coming UA branding, there was a Nike logo. Reminded me that MLB has been leasing front-space for a while already, but also — with UA making the undershirts now too, I wondered if maybe the Nike collar logo would be seized as precedent for a second UA logo. Given the repetition of MLB batterman logos on the player’s backsides, I wouldn’t put it past them aesthetically.

    • JoeyJoeJoe Junior Shabadoo | December 7, 2016 at 9:35 am |

      You can be sure that any space where there can be a logo, there will be a logo.

      Coming soon: mandated face tatoos of uni manufacturers’ logos.

      • David | December 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm |

        Oh, that’s ridiculous. Tasteful, 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch neck tattoos of locally-based team sponsors would be one thing…

        • JoeyJoeJoe Junior Shabadoo | December 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm |

          As long as it’s in team colors, I’ll be ok with it. Need to have standards, after all.

  • Ray Barrington | December 7, 2016 at 9:37 am |

    I remember during the late 80s, there was some talk of changing the Rams cheerleader squad name to “The Sirens of the Rams.”

    • Paul Lukas | December 7, 2016 at 9:47 am |

      If you’re referring to the movie, that didn’t come out until 1991 (although the book was published in 1988).

  • Rex (acc-tracker) | December 7, 2016 at 9:55 am |

    That Wake Forest uniform is a solid fauxback. They wore a grey alternate in the early 90’s and the design is similar to the mid 90’s Duncan/Childress ACC Championship era.

    • Geeman | December 7, 2016 at 1:05 pm |

      The grey jersey was on sale in the campus bookstore this morning.

      Wake wore gray uniforms at home for a couple of games in the 1992-93 season. They also wore Laker gold uniforms at home as an alternate back then, and they wore the gold and black uniforms on the road. So they had four uniforms that season.

  • Wade Heidt | December 7, 2016 at 10:01 am |

    When it comes to punting aesthetics, I miss the single bar facemask.

    • Dumb Guy | December 7, 2016 at 11:04 am |
      • Mike Engle | December 7, 2016 at 11:39 am |

        Oh man, Scott Player. A real-life style guide mannequin, in that his name is actually “Player” and #5 is a common number for prototype jerseys and digital mockups!

  • Paul | December 7, 2016 at 11:49 am |

    Green Endzones in Seattle;

    Makes sense, they’re on the road this week in Wisconsin, then back at home on Thursday for a color rush game against the Rams.

    They stay home the following week (12/24) against the Cardinals, I wonder if they’ll keep the green, or go back to the navy blue.

  • Noah Crouch | December 7, 2016 at 12:02 pm |

    I punted in college and while this form of punting wasn’t around then (2001-20005), it is just a new variation on the “sky” kick or “pooch” kick. It is used when the punting team typically is near or have crossed the 50 in order to try and pin the other team deep. Like one of the other commentors posted, it has its origins in Australia and when some of the Aussie punters started making their way here, it came with them. I always used the technique of dropping the ball higher for more hang-time and sometimes coupled that with angling it one way or the other. If you drop it lower, your punt will be more of a line drive and typically have more distance, which is typically used in windy conditions or to try and drive a punt over the returners head. The drop-punt (just a term I use, not sure what it’s actually called) is used to give the ball a kind of back spin so that hopefully it can hit around the 1 and come back to the gunners who are trying to down it instead of going into the endzone.

    • Paul Lukas | December 7, 2016 at 12:12 pm |

      I always used the technique of dropping the ball higher for more hang-time and sometimes coupled that with angling it one way or the other. If you drop it lower, your punt will be more of a line drive and typically have more distance…

      Which, as I wrote in today’s text, is exactly what I was doing as a kid.

  • Kabe | December 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm |

    Re: The UNC keeper colors. I like that. As a mexican, it always bothered me to see Kasey Keller or Tim Howard wearing green when not playing against México, and sometimes they wore it when playing México

  • Josh Gibson | December 7, 2016 at 12:39 pm |

    People really don’t know there’s different ways to punt? That’s like being surprised there’s different pitches in baseball.

    • Eric Romain | December 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm |

      I grew up with no interest in football.
      I graduated from a big football school, so i was kind of forced into following it. After 13 seasons, I’ve only now figured out most of the rules, I don’t know anything about technique or strategy.
      I found today’s discussion very informative.

  • K W | December 7, 2016 at 12:43 pm |

    Not much more to add after reading the comments (Noah and a couple others covered it pretty well), but you’ll see the “parallel to ground” drop when the punter is trying to get more distance (when the team is punting say from their own 20 or 30 yd line). The “nose down” drop when the punter is trying to pin a team deep without the ball going into the end zone (when the team is punting say from the 40, midfield, or inside opponent’s territory).

    I first remember seeing it done by Ben Graham (Cardinals punter during their super bowl season). He’s from Australia, as expected.

  • Lee | December 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm |

    From Wikipedia:
    Drop punt
    In a drop punt the ball is held vertically, and dropped and kicked before it hits the ground, resulting in the ball spinning backwards end over end. It is the primary method of disposing the ball by foot in Australian rules football. It is considered more accurate and easier to mark than a regular punt kick, which is held flat and does not spin in the air. In gridiron football it is referred to as a pooch punt or quick kick, a kick used by punters when the team is too far out for a field goal and too close to kick a normal punt because the ball will probably go into the end zone, losing field position in the resulting touchback. The kick has gradually replaced the less effective “coffin-corner kick”, which was similar to rugby football’s “kicking for touch” where the object was to put the ball out of bounds near the opposition goal. Like Australian rules football drop punts, the pooch punt requires the punter to control the distance and former Australian footballers like Darren Bennett and Ben Graham are generally credited with increasing the popularity of this kick in the National Football League.
    Jack Dyer is generally credited with inventing the drop punt during his playing days with the Richmond Football Club. Horrie Clover[1] and the Collier brothers, Albert and Harry, are also attributed with being the first to use the kick regularly.[2]

    Pioneered in the NFL by Darren Bennett, an Australian punter.

    Lee

  • Rex (acc-tracker) | December 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm |

    Navy helmet: amazing

    Navy pants: standard Under Armour template

    Navy jersey: just lazy. They ripped off Nike’s old look seen here with Vanderbilt:
    https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/oKTevFvsULE02u5zim4Hp6SGERA=/0x10:4000×2677/1310×873/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/27637663/20121231_jla_ab2_474.0.jpg

  • Robby Z | December 7, 2016 at 1:58 pm |

    Shouldn’t FSU basketball’s uniform color from last night be described as Garnet, not Red?

    • Paul Lukas | December 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm |

      I must say, we got muuuuuch deeper into the day without someone raising this issue than I had expected. I had mentally put the over/under at about 9:15am.

  • Tim | December 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm |

    This will make 21 retired numbers representing 23 players (8 is retired for Dickey and Berra; 42 retired for Robinson and Rivera).

    At what point will we see 3 digit Yankee numbers on the playing field?

    • Jon Rose | December 7, 2016 at 2:51 pm |

      It’s still only 21 players. 6 and 37 are retired for Joe Torre and Casey Stengel, respectively.

      • Tim | December 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm |

        Ok. 21 retired numbers representing 21 players and 2 managers. Sigh…

    • arrScott | December 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm |

      The Yankees won’t need 3-digit numbers for a while. Counting 0, there are 100 1- or 2-digit numbers available. The Yankees have retired 21, leaving 79 numbers available. So that’s a unique number for every member of the 40-man roster plus one for each of up to 10 coaches, with 29 left over for guys who’ve dropped off the 40-man but might return, call-ups, and whatnot. The Yanks will need to retire at least 10 more numbers before they’re really squeezed.

      What we will likely see more commonly is regular position players with ridiculously high 2-digit numbers. In 20 or 25 years, the Yankees will probably be retiring a number in the 80s or 90s for a kid who got a mid-season callup, caught fire, and put together a good career after being stuck with an absurd number for a starter.

    • Ronnie Poore | December 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm |

      Jeter’s 2 will be the last single digit uni number worn by a Yankee.

      • DenverGregg | December 7, 2016 at 7:02 pm |

        Zero?

        • Scott | December 8, 2016 at 4:23 am |

          It’s been my understanding for several years that the Yankees don’t want to issue No. 0.

  • Dumb Guy | December 7, 2016 at 4:40 pm |

    Paul was a born punter. Here’s some footage of him when he first caught “punting fever” as a wee lad.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOW24YAE5S4

  • Mullet B Miler | December 8, 2016 at 9:10 am |

    Re: FNOB’s for the St. Louis Blues wall of recognition – this is probably due to #11 Brian Sutter having had 2 of his brothers (twins Rich & Ron) also play for the team. And that’s only half of them that made the NHL (6 played in the league at the same time).

    • Mark | December 8, 2016 at 10:48 pm |

      This display replicates the banners hanging in the arena. Also, Brian Sutter was the head coach of the Blues by the time his brothers joined the team.

  • Jimbo Baldwin | December 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm |

    The “drop punt” comes from Aussie rules football. I played ‘footy’ ten years for the USA’s best club, the Denver Bulldogs, and I was also a punter at Western State (CO). The technique will result in an end over end flight with a much higher potential of bouncing straight up enabling coverage to down the kick closer to the end zone. The traditional method I’d referred to as a “torpedo” kick in Aussie rules, only used for distance, not accuracy. The drop punt is used for goal kicking and accurate short passes.