Punters rarely get the credit they deserve, but nonetheless play an important role in any team's success. Luckily, the Badgers have a pretty good one on their side. In just two seasons, Wisconsin's Drew Meyer is already among the top statistical punters in school history, joining the likes of former Ray Guy Award winner Kevin Stemke, along with one of the heroes of the last Wisconsin-Iowa matchup, Brad Nortman.
How did you get your start as a punter? Is it something you always wanted to do?
"I played soccer through fourth grade and then football started in fifth grade. Football was always my first love. I was the one kid in fifth grade who was able to kick the ball over the goalpost, so I started kicking then and ran with it. When I got into high school my coaches saw something in me and worked with me on everything from drops to steps and swinging up through the ball. They really helped me to develop into a punter and it ended up working out when I got the opportunity to come to Wisconsin."
Who are some of the punters you try to emulate?
"There are so many good ones that have come through Wisconsin. Guys like Kevin Stemke, Ken DeBauche, Brad Nortman, all of them. Brad was huge for me when I got here and really helped me during my first year. He really helped me with pooch punts. I had never really done that Australian-style, nose-down type of kick and Brad helped to introduce me to that."
As a punter, what defines success for you on the field?
"One of the biggest stats that we look for is net yards. It's not easy to have a big average, but net yards include hang time in the equation. You're helping your coverage team and you are helping your team as a whole with net yardage, which is the yardage from the line of scrimmage to where the ball ends up after the return. Because if you kick it into the end zone, or a guy has a big return, you have a big average, but you're not helping your team. So, net yardage is what you look for because that's how you're helping your team."
You've employed a rugby-style punt at times this season. What are the advantages to that?
"The rugby punt is a great tool to have because if teams try to load you up, you can game plan for that or check to that. So, if a team comes out and looks like they are going to be coming off one way you can roll the other way. It changes the game a little bit, too. You are able to get the ball on the ground and have it bounce around a little bit, which can make it harder for the return man to handle. It's always great when you are punting into the wind. It just opens up the playbook a little more."
What adjustments do you have to make to be able to execute a rugby punt?
"It's a little bit of a different leg swing. I kicked back in high school so it's not as difficult for me because I am used to that type of leg swing. It's kind of like a soccer swing. You have to swing up through the ball, but also have to make sure you're keeping it out there so you get a nice end-over-end rotation."
What do you like about the rugby punt?
"It's just a great strategy because it keeps the defense on their toes. They might be able to game plan on how to stop you in the regular formation, but the rugby punt gives us the ability to check out of that, which throws the defense off."
"It's always fun as a specialist when you have the opportunity to do something like that. It got Brad a lot publicity when he did it, which was funny because he is such a humble guy. But it's always fun. Anytime you see a team across the country run a fake, your eyes get big and it's always something you wish you'll get the chance to do in your career."
- Ryan Evans