Watching a punter scurry onto the field can’t be all that heartening for a football team, especially with how haphazard the collegiate kicking game has become.
The punter is without a doubt the loneliest player on the football field. Standing fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage, he must feel the pressure loaded on his shoulders. Not only must he bail out an offense that just surrendered control of the ball, but he must also keep the defense out of any field position jams.
All the more amazing then is that Cornell’s starting punter is freshman Joe Hull.
“The hardest part about being a special teams guy is that you have to stay loose all game because you never know when they’re going to need you,” Hull said.
Having not punted until his senior year in high school, the native of Tulsa, Ok., has seamlessly stepped into the starting role for the Red and played well above his age.
“[After the] first couple of days of camp he’s named the starter,” said junior place-kicker Peter Iverson, who also doubles as de facto special teams coach. “He’s handled it really well. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for him.”
“I came in ready and I felt I was prepared,” Hull said. “I approached the year just fighting for a job. I hadn’t been predominantly a punter in the past.”
Though Hull began the season on the wrong foot, shanking a few punts and shortening the field for the opponents, recently he has been in prime form. After hammering five punts for an average of 39.8 yards each last week against Dartmouth, he ratcheted up his season mark to 34.9 yards per punt.
I just had to work on my form,” Hull explained. “And it’s getting better and better every week.”
Hull’s season-long effort came at Brown last month, when he cranked one 53 yards.
“It feels good,” he said, on kicking long punts. “Basically I try to help out the defense and make their job easier. The farther I can get [the ball] the better I feel because it puts them in a better position.”
Hull, when he’s not skying kicks on Schoellkopf Field also spends time finishing his Electrical Engineering homework.
“School’s pretty tough, and football demands a lot of time, but I find it’s not too unmanageable,” he admitted.
Iverson, a Mechanical Engineer himself, knows all about Hull’s double-life on the turf and in the classroom.
“The work piles up, but you have to make time for it,” he said. “You gotta do as much work as you can in your free time and try to fit everything in.”
As his immediate coach, Iverson can probably pass the most reasonable judgment on Hull’s performance eight games into his first year.
“Joe’s steadily improved the whole year,” he said. “When he came [to Cornell] he was kind of inconsistent. But he probably works as hard as anyone on the team right now.
“He’s going to be a great punter by the time he’s a senior.”
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj