Welcome to Football class. Did you do your homework? Watch any games last week? Impress people with your knowledge of zone defense? Make accurate conclusion about the role of the quarterback? Why not?! You got to put yourself out there! That’s how you gain respect- both on and off the field. The same is true for the players on Special Teams. Often these positions are where new players start and ultimately make a name for themselves. This is especially true of the Punt/Kickoff Returner.
A returner is the intended receiver of a punt and/or kickoff. His goal is to catch the ball after it has been kicked and then get the best possible field position for his team. Now, often you will see a returner do one of two things. First, he will call for a fair catch. This is when the returner waves his arm in the air before catching the ball. This signifies that the play ends with his catch- he can’t run it back and the opposing team can’t touch him. Second, a returner will let the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback. The result is the ball being spotted at the receiving teams own 20 yard-line. While both these actions are fundamental elements of punt/ kick reception, they are far from the exhilarating.
No, the most exciting is when the returner catches the ball and does what his title suggests- returns it. The goal here is for the returner to run it back as far as possible before being tackled or forced out of bounds by the opposing team. Sometimes, a returner is especially skilled and he is able to score a touchdown. Now, this pains me to say, because I am an extremely loyal Steelers fan, but Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears in one of the best returners in the business (PS- as an FSU alum I double hate him as he went to University of Miami for college).
Hester holds the record for the most returns for a touchdown in a single season. In recent years he is so feared by the opposing team that balls are not kicked to him and he is heavily covered during punts and kickoffs. However that proved not enough this past Monday night against the Green Bay Packers when Hester returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown.
So watch the punts and kickoffs… excitement may ensue!