Who Did it Best? Punters Tackling

Punters are weird. Some scamper away from contact and barely deserve to be called a football player, considering their “effort” in tackling. But some, like the Indianapolis Colts’ Pat McAfee, ex-Cowboy Sam Paulescu, and BYU Cougar Matt Payne take every aspect of their job seriously.

This might be the best hit by a punter in football history:

Denver Broncos returner Trindon Holliday receives the ball about eight yards deep in the end zone and proceeds straight up the right hash, cutting left at the 7 and reaching top speed when he finds the sideline at the 30. In the blink of the eye, he’s passing the 40, but tracking along the 50 is McAfee, who closes on Holliday and delivers a strong two-handed blow that knocks the diminutive returner out of bounds.

Or is the hit by former Dallas Cowboys punter Sam Paulescu the best?

First, while this tackle takes place in Cowboys territory, it is 20 yards from where the punt was received – Paulescu worked downfield quickly. When the returner escapes the second attempted Cowboys sandwich, the punter squares him up and explodes into contact with the upper body and arrests all forward progress.

Finally, the appropriately named Brigham Young Cougars punter, Matt Payne, delivered not one, but two booms against Boise State:

The punter unleashes a long, low punt that is very returnable, allowing the returner to sprint straight up the field for 10 yards before a coverage team member gets in the frame. By the time the ball carrier finds the sideline, his blockers have begun cleaning clocks of their own and sealing off the BYU coverage team.

Payne, however, has been progressing up the field and when he lowers his shoulder, the returner reacts as if he’s just been run over by a bus.

Not content to stand pat, Payne did it again after a very similar kick and return later in the same game. While the hit is not as bone jarring as the first, the simple fact is Boise State’s returner got knocked off his feet, twice, by a punter.

Congratulations to Matt Payne, the patron saint of punters everywhere.

Follow David on Twitter @SoSH_davemc.

David R. McCullough is the Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Pylon. He also writes about the topics shaping the sport, examines the coaches and players, ruminates on football’s past, and explores the controversial issues facing the game.

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