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  1. #1
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    Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    Posted on Wed, Jun. 21, 2006

    [size=18px]Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best jobs[/size]

    DAVE CAMPBELL
    Associated Press


    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The sneering veneers seen on many NFL players don't typically trickle down to the punters, a position where much of the sport's machismo has been stripped bare.

    You see this at Winter Park, where a couple of fresh-faced, recent college grads have been hanging out this spring and smiling about the chance to kick footballs high into the air for a living.

    There is only room for one punter on the roster, of course, so the fulfillment of this classic "what a country" moment can't come true for both of them - at least at the same time, on the same team.

    Chris Kluwe experienced it last season. John Torp is trying to get a taste himself.

    A soccer player from age 4 until his freshman year in high school, Kluwe began to believe in his late teens that he had the ability to punt professionally.

    "I started thinking: There's really not many easier jobs out there, than kicking a ball and getting a paycheck for it," he said.

    Off he went to UCLA, where he averaged 43.4 yards per kick and as a senior was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award as the punter of the year in college football. He was on his way to the practice squad with the Seattle Seahawks when the Vikings cut veteran Darren Bennett and claimed Kluwe off waivers.

    Coach Mike Tice was just hoping the kid wouldn't mess up, but he did so well that even Tice, who ridiculed kickers often during his tenure, had grown fond of him by the time the leaves began falling.

    The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Kluwe looks like a better fit for a basketball locker room, but his boyish enthusiasm and reverence for the profession was a striking juxtaposition in a place where coaching changes, blowout losses, boat parties and other boorish behavior dominated media-generated discussions last season.

    Before buying his wife, Isabel, a Volvo, they shared a vehicle and she dropped him off for practice each day - his thick, black hair often showing the obvious absence of a comb from his morning routine, as if he were still in school staggering into an 8:15 a.m. poli sci lecture.

    He averaged 44.1 yards per punt, good for sixth in the league and second in the conference, before his right leg got hit after a kick in early December. He missed one game, then returned for the final three with an obvious limp and had reconstructive surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

    After more than five months of rehabilitation, Kluwe will finally be cleared to punt again next week - giving him time to tune up for training camp.

    "It's just a matter of knocking the rust off," he said, matter-of-factly, without a hint of worry that his leg strength will be adversely affected. That's because he's already had two serious knee injuries, both suffered playing football, and neither of them have hindered his career progress.

    So why should this one?

    "I've been through it before, and it's just rehab," Kluwe said.

    Torp, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, was also a Ray Guy finalist, last year at Colorado. Despite going undrafted after a poor showing at the league's scouting combine, he was one of the top punting prospects in this year's crop and has just as good of a shot to win the job. He also has the benefit of being able to kick throughout the team's spring minicamps and developmental practices.

    To him, the opportunity to get paid to punt is equally delightful. For him, the smiles are equally plentiful. When the boss comes over to bother them? Big deal.

    "I just try to go back there and harass them," coach Brad Childress said, hardly differentiating himself from Tice's attitude toward the kickers. "Try and see if I can get them to quit concentrating a little bit. I'm not going to tell a guy to step in front of the ball or step behind it or anything like that. I'm just going to be more of a stickler back there for getting on their nerves."

    There's certainly far more respect from peers, analysts and coaches in the NFL than in college or levels lower than that, since games can turn so fast on one mistake or one big boot. But everybody - including the specialists themselves - realize what a fantastic scam they've got going.

    "That's the one comment you always get: 'I wish I was a punter. I wish I was a kicker,'" Torp said.

    Being a punter requires plenty of work and a gifted leg, but it also takes a different approach, with the reality that they don't have a multimillion-dollar signing bonus to fall back on. The realization of an occupation so fleeting requires a grounded perspective that seems in short supply at other positions.

    "I'm enjoying it now while I can, and hopefully I can be smart with my money and do life after football," Kluwe said.

    Dave Campbell can be reached at [email protected]

    Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best jobs

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    COJOMAY is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    I've always found it interesting that punters can be a "hero" one week and a "dog" the next. These people are so consistant in practice and then for some reason just shank the heck out of a punt. That's why Childress and Tice were always riding them -- not to embarass them but to get them to work better under pressure. Seems to me their kinda like Culpepper -- they don't do well under pressure.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    Go Kluwe!!!!!!
    BANNED OR DEAD...I'LL TAKE EITHER ONE

  4. #4
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    Grace under pressure is what separates the good kickers from the great kickers.....Kluwe seems to have that intangible....get well soon Kluwe.

  5. #5
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    Kluwe for MVP!



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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    i fell in love with kluwe the day he did that running sideline punt


    get well soon!


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  7. #7
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    I felt bad when he got hurt.. Not only cuz he was one of our few bright spots but he was a practice squader and comes in and tears it up.. Nice to see a story like that.. We got a frickin steal



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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    "Vikez4Lyfe" wrote:
    I felt bad when he got hurt.. Not only cuz he was one of our few bright spots but he was a practice squader and comes in and tears it up.. Nice to see a story like that.. We got a frickin steal
    And yet, the Vikes don't make his jersey available. What's up wit dat??

    =Z=

    Thanks to Josdin for the awesome sig!

  9. #9
    coreyd is offline Coach
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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's best j

    Every position is important. Having an excellent kicker that is good under pressure is important. Otherwise you might as well do it old school and throw the football down the field.

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    Re: Just kickin' it: Vikes punters vie for one of world's be

    "AWZeus" wrote:
    "Vikez4Lyfe" wrote:
    I felt bad when he got hurt.. Not only cuz he was one of our few bright spots but he was a practice squader and comes in and tears it up.. Nice to see a story like that.. We got a frickin steal
    And yet, the Vikes don't make his jersey available. What's up wit dat??

    =Z=

    No doubt bro.. I'd totally rock the Kluwe jersey


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