In most football games, punters are simply a complete afterthought. That won’t be the case for at least one game this weekend, however, as the matchup between the Colts and the Raiders features a matchup of the two most exciting punters in the NFL.
For the Colts, it’s Pat McAfee, this year’s Pro Bowl punter from the AFC and a Pro Bowl selection in two of the past three years. He’s arguably the best special teams player in the NFL period, given his expertise at punting combined with his value as the holder on field goals, kickoff specialist, and even expert fake punt passer. McAfee has averaged 49.1 yards per punt this year (tied for first in the NFL), 42.8 net yards per punt (third in the NFL), and has had 17 punts pinned inside the 20 yard line (34.7% of his punts) and nine touchbacks without a punt returned for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Marquette King has also emerged as one of the top punters in the NFL, as he’s averaged 47.8 yards per punt this year (sixth in the NFL), averaged 41.3 net yards per punt (eighth in the NFL), and has had 28 punts pinned inside the 20 (41.2% of his punts),five touchbacks, and one punt returned for a score. Like McAfee, King is an exciting player who is known just as much for his antics as he is for his punting ability.
This Sunday, the two players will face off - though, considering this will be a game with two good offenses and two good quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Derek Carr, it remains to be seen how much McAfee and King will actually get to play. But nonetheless, the two are the biggest stars the NFL has from the punter position.
“It’s definitely revolutionizing the position,” King said on a conference call with Indianapolis media this week. “McAfee has always been entertaining. He is a really funny dude. I have worked with him during some offseasons and have gotten a chance to hang out with him. He has always been like that. It’s cool to have an entertaining punter to watch like him. He is funny.”
King recalled the story of when he first met McAfee, which was at a kicking camp at the University of Whitewater-Wisconsin, when McAfee was wearing “some bright green shorts with a plaid vest,” King said. “It didn’t match at all, no swag but I guess his personality made it swag because that’s who he was.”
King did say that he’s learned some things about punting from McAfee too, however.
“I think kicking-wise the part that I took from him was to not be so technical,” King said. “You see a lot of punters get really technical, thinking maybe they need to take a six-inch step or a three-foot step with my right foot. He just gets the ball and rips it and that’s the part that I took from him. Not to be so hard on yourself.”
King made it clear that McAfee was one of the players he watched when he was coming out of college and that McAfee’s one of the best punters in the league, but King thinks he has the Colts’ punter beat when it comes to celebrations.
“Pat can celebrate good but I feel like I’ve got the rhythm,” King said. “I have a little more rhythm. I got a little more rhythm but Pat comes up with some epic celebrations too.”
On social media, McAfee said that he’s got the advantage on Twitter but that King’s got the advantage on Instagram. King did add one comment on social media, though: he won’t joke with McAfee, since McAfee’s actually a comedian.
“Oh you already know that, best looking punter in the league right here,” King said. “Your boy has the looks; it can’t get any better than that. I will tell you one thing, I will never joke with him on social media, he is a professional comedian. That is like me telling Pat to get on the Xbox and play Call of Duty with some professional gamers during the daytime while everybody else is supposed to be at work because that is when the best people play. I can’t mess with him.”
At the end of the day, though, the big thing is that McAfee and King are leading the way to help show that punters are people too, drawing attention to the often forgotten position.
“The only people that really say punters don’t matter are usually the national media or people that work for ESPN, so that’s kind of the big thing,” McAfee said this week, laughing. “But I do love, this year, Marquette King getting love. I’ve known him literally since he first came out when he signed with Oakland underneath Shane Lechler. Nobody really thought he had a chance. I was punting with him then, and he’s kind of grown into this superstar at punter. He’s getting better and better. I think in a couple years he’ll be the best guy in the league. But I love the hype and appreciation that he brought for punters. It’s good for punters. It’s great for my position. It’s good for my peers. So I’m a big fan of Marquette King.”
The debate between McAfee and King will reign on, but one thing’s for sure: you can expect more attention on the punters this Saturday than you’ll normally see during a game. In the end, that’s a win for both players.