We conclude our series of Draft interviews with a punter. Kyle Martens handled punting duties for Rice University, where he was First Team All Conference USA. He averaged 43.6 yards per punt in his college career. 17 of his 78 career punts were for over 50 yards, and he never had one blocked. He is also a good athlete who played both offense and defense in high school football. With multiple picks in both of the last two rounds, it would not be surprising to see the Jets grab at least one kicking specialist this weekend.
Kyle and I discussed his unique position and getting ready for the Draft. Join us under the jump.
John B: What drills does a punter go through at the Combine?
Kyle Martens: As far as the punting goes, it is pretty simple. We didn't do the 40 yard dash. You don't expect punters or kickers to do that. You don't want to get injured. All we actually did was eight open field punts, three directional right, and three directional left. All they wanted to see was how good your leg is, your best hang time, and your best distance. That's it.
JB: Was your training for the Combine any different than in season training?
KM: I wouldn't say I did too much different. I worked with Coach Gary Zauner (former NFL special teams coach) a bit more than I had before. I had more time to do that than before. I wasn't in season training with the team so we were able to work together more. He's a kicking, punting, and snapping instructor based in Arizona. He coached professionally for thirteen years. Other than that, I stuck with a strict training routine. I lifted six days a week and punted three to four times a week. I did it a bit harder than normal, but aside from that, it was about the same.
JB: When did you start punting?
KM: I started the end of my sophomore season in high school. There were three games left in the season. I was just punting on the sidelines for our returners. The coach and the rest of the team noticed me punting. They stopped practice and asked me to try out. I ended up getting the job.
JB: Fans hear a lot of stories about how kickers and punters are separate from the rest of the team. Was this your experience, or did you feel like one of the guys at Rice?
KM: I definitely felt like part of the group. Kickers and punters are stereotypically, I wouldn't say lazy but a lot of people don't think we put in the amount of work a defensive lineman would. We don't have a lot of practice time. Special teams work usually only runs the first twenty to thirty minutes of practice. We are able to go to the other field the rest of the time. I just tried to prove myself in the offseason and work as hard as I could when I first got there. I earned the respect of our upperclassmen players and our coaches. From that point, we got along really well. The great thing about Rice is everybody was very personable and down to earth. There was not one person who did not get along with everybody else.
JB: What punter do you model your game after?
KM: Shane Lechler is a guy I look at. Being the best punter in the NFL, he has an unbelievable leg. He also has great confidence. He does whatever he wants to do with the ball. Any punt he just knocks out of the yard. Matt Turk is another guy. I had one of my coaches at the Combine tell me my technique looks a lot like his. Matt Turk is a big guy who has great flexibility and uses his size to his advantage. He's another guy I look up to.
JB: A lot of fans watch punters and think it's easy to just kick the ball, but a lot of detailed and proper technique is necessary to execute a punt. Can you take us inside what you need to do?
KM: I'll go back to what I say about Turk. Remaining flexible is key. You want to have strength, but if you aren't flexible, it's very difficult to get a good leg swing and hit the ball as well as you want to. You have to hit the ball in the right spot. You need to follow through to make sure you get the most out of your kick. You also need a consistent drop. You want to hit the same spot on every kick. That is something I have really been working on. It's all about the release. You catch it with two hands. You hold it. You make the first step with your right foot. The second step is with your plant foot. That's when your guide hand comes off, and you hold it with only your right hand if you are right footed. You have to keep the grip and keep the nose of the ball down at just the correct angle tilting it inside as your drop it to hit a punt well and have it spiral off your foot.
JB: What is the most challenging part of being a punter?
KM: It's when you get into a windy game. Wind can really change how a ball moves as early as when it leaves your hand for the drop. You have to be really focused.
JB: What do you want to do after football?
KM: I'd like to go back to Wyoming, where I'm from, and start my own ranch. We have a little ranch there now. I want to buy some more land and make it bigger.
Thanks to Kyle for answering my questions, and hopefully the Jets take him this weekend because they can use a punter.