The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Presented by Winnol is going down on Saturday, January 19 at The Home Depot Center on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. In the days before and after the game, we’ll have continuing coverage—from player and coach interviews to videos, photos and highlights. For more on the game, follow @NFLPABowl on Twitter.
Quick, think of a football player. Once you have a name, what position does he play? Probably anything besides punter.
While his appearance on the field means the offense has stalled, Ball State University punter Scott Kovanda would like to bring some attention to the forgotten position. In his senior year, he helped the Cardinals rank second in the nation in punt defense, with only 5 of his 44 kicks returned for an average of 0.8 yards.
In addition to being a finalist for the Ray Guy award for the best collegiate punter, Kovanda earned an invitation to both the 2013 NFL Combine and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. After practice on Thursday afternoon, he took a few minutes to chat with TDdaily.
TDdaily: You had a pretty big year this year—first bowl game appearance, Ray Guy finalist, now the Collegiate Bowl. What’s that been like for you especially since you’ve been at Ball State from seeing them undefeated during your redshirt year, then going 2-10, and then building back up?
Scott Kovanda: Yeah, it’s been an awesome experience. When I first got there, I saw the fruits of all the hard labor of the seniors that graduated in 2008 and then we fell off a little bit. But me and fellow [current] seniors stuck with it and didn’t transfer. Seeing all the hard work pay off with our team and then personally, I put in a lot of hours on the practice field doing some extra punting and working with my long snapper, having this season punting-wise feels very good. Knowing all the hard work pays off, it’s just the best feeling in the world.
TD: Let’s go back a little. Why did you become a punter? You’d imagine that most kids growing up want to be quarterback or wide receiver.
SK: My dad was a punter in high school. He had a couple of offers in college and he kind of got me on the punting road, I guess. I played safety and receiver as well in high school, so I didn’t really grow up like, ‘Oh I want to be a punter.’ Like you said, it’s not really a kid’s dream, but I realized that was my ticket to college and my chance to maybe play on even further than that.
TD: Then you ended up at Ball State, which is called Punter U. Did you know that going in, that you were going to be in the line of good punters?
SK: I didn’t know before, but when I went down there people kept saying it. I didn’t really know—I thought they were joking. But then I was talking to the punter, Chris Miller, who was a fifth-year All American before me that I actually redshirted under my freshman year, and he explained it to me. That was like a challenge to me: there’s a bunch of great punters and I wanted to be in that legacy, be a part of something bigger than myself. I took the challenge and just to be in the same sentence as Brad Maynard, Reggie Hodges, and Chris Miller and honor your emblem.
TD: You were a captain this year. Did you ever find that difficult, since you’re a punter and not really in the trenches with the guys?
SK: Yes. Being a punter and being a captain was a little different; there’s not a lot of them. It’s hard to connect to other guys. As the punter, you’re not in meetings with them all the time, you’re not sweating on the practice field as much, or doing the team periods with them. I had to make a bigger effort to do extra things; the weight room is one place I really put more effort into and was able to connect with guys. That’s kind of where I could prove myself athletically. Puntings’s an athletic thing, but some guys don’t really see it as that. Where I had chances to, I helped out with more off the field stuff. Someone had an academic problem, I had to help him out. That and the weight room.
TD: If it’s fair to say that being looked at differently is a negative aspect of punting, what’s your favorite positive of being a punter?
SK: Specialists are pretty normal, down-to-earth kids. We’re all usually pretty good academically. I’d probably have to say the academics. You think of a punter—a punter, specialist and quarterback, and they’re usually pretty sound academically.
TD: How are you feeling going into the combine? Excited? Anxious?
SK: Excited. Obviously, it’s something that I’ve never been through. It’s a huge opportunity for me. When I got the call that I was invited to the combine, I was really happy and excited. I’m motivated too. I’ve been working really hard, working out hard. I’m just excited to get to Indy and be against the best of the best.
TD: Let’s say you’re on an NFL roster and some fan looks at this team like, “Who is this guy who’s our new punter?” If you could define or explain yourself to him, what would you say?
SK: Hard-working. I’m always one to be on the field—as specialists, every day, we’re on the field early doing extra work. I’m someone who’s always dove into everything and give it 100 percent. With Ball State, it was an out-of-state school. I didn’t know anybody when I went down there so I kind of dove right into it, gave it my all, and it’s been a great situation for me. Some guys if you went in a little tentative could have transferred out, but I stuck with it. Hard-working, determined, and try to stick with everything I do.
Joe Kozlowski is an editorial intern for TDdaily. Follow him on Twitter @koz2393.