Best in the Land..Again!

Daniel Sepulveda was rewarded for his hard work on and off the football field when he was awarded the Ray Guy Award for being the nation's best collegiate punter. Sepulveda took home the award a couple of years ago as well, and is now the only two time winner of the award.

It is evident by watching him that Daniel Sepulveda has always been a very driven individual. It was once said that when faced with the possibility of missing games and hurting the team at Baylor, Baylor's senior punter put everything he had into rehab. But, perhaps the most intriguing thing about Sepulveda is the road he has traveled to become the first punter to twice be named the nation's best.

Daniel Sepulveda was not heavily recruited out of high school, mostly because, as those close to Daniel would say, he was a very late bloomer. He was 5'9" and 155 lbs as a junior and played very little on the varsity team. The talented Sepulveda finally began growing as a senior in high school, and started at linebacker for his Highland Park High School football team.

Daniel followed his older brother, Stephen Sepulveda, to Baylor University. Ironically, Daniel did not have the desire to punt, but rather wanted to be on the field with his brother Stephen who also was a linebacker. Once Daniel was told that punting would be the quickest way he would see the field, he decided to help his team in any way he could.

Under one former Baylor head coach, it was once said of Daniel that he could "kick it a country mile.". However, Daniel's punting style was also initially was compared to that of Herman Munster. Daniel was inconsistent and needed some assistance in his form and technique.

Through one private kicking instructor in Tennessee and 6 sessions with a kicking coach in Dallas before his redshirt freshman year, Daniel earned the starting punting job in 2003. However, Sepulveda did not enjoy the change from being a multi-play participant to being on the field for only a handful of plays during the game.

Before the 2004 season, Daniel Sepulveda was close to quitting the punting gig altogether. The 6-3 230 Sepulveda wanted to play linebacker. Sepulveda prayed about it and felt like God was showing him a new direction. The direction was to be a punter.

Sepulveda had great help during the following football season. A year in which he was awarded his first Ray Guy Award, Sepulveda was able to work with a wonderful true freshman deep snapper, Jonathan Weeks, and great gunners in Braelon Davis and Ryan Jeffery. A humble Daniel Sepulveda would be the first to agree that the great Baylor punt cover team all were a factor in him receiving the award.

This is part of the story that not too many people realize. Shortly after taking home the Ray Guy Award, Daniel partially tore his right ACL in December of 2004 playing basketball. An MRI on the knee was read as "clear". Unaware of the partial ACL tear in his right knee, he played the entire 2005 season. When the NFL scouts came for Baylor Junior Pro Day on April 18, 2006, Daniel ran 2 very good times in the 40 impressing the pro scouts in attendance.

2 days later, on Friday, April 20th, while home with friends, Daniel hurt his right knee while playing basketball. Choosing to consult Dr. Dan Cooper at the Carroll Clinic in Dallas, Dr. Cooper compared the MRI from 2004 with the new 2006 MRI. Dr. Cooper told Daniel that the ACL was actually partially torn in December 2004 and the new injury just completed the tear. Although a difficult injury, this was actually positive news as the amount of swelling was considerably less and surgery did not have to be delayed for the swelling to abate.

The rehab process immediately began for Daniel Sepulveda, and his family, coaches, teammates, and fans were behind him. One family member wrote "126 days to TCU", Baylor's 1st game of the 2006 season. Sepulveda was determined to play in the season opener.

On August 26, 2006, the Sepulveda family visited Dr. Cooper hoping to receive the "Release to Play". However, Dr. Cooper wanted Daniel to wait until at the earliest September 30th, a home game against Kansas State, before he played. Dr. Cooper explained that even that date was pushing it. Daniel discussed the situation with his family. Prayers asking for wisdom in making such a big decision were prayed. Daniel decided to play, as his parents trusted God's decision for their son.

Throughout his rehab, Daniel Sepulveda received great support from his family, his friends, his coaches, and his teammates. However, one particular staff member encouraged and worked hard to allow Daniel to comeback from his ACL tear. David Chandler, associate trainer for BU Football, put so much of his time into Daniel's rehab, and the reward was the product on the field.

Daniel Sepulveda, a player likely to be honored as one of Baylor University's all-time legends certainly will look forward to what the future may hold. Right now, however, he will sit back and enjoy his second Ray Guy Award. He undoubtedly, the best in the land.

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