St. Thomas Aquinas Punter To Illinois

The Fighting Illini football team, limited by NCAA rules on the number of scholarships it offers, must be judicious in selecting punters. Ideally, no more than one punter can be on scholarship at a time. That man has been identified. Florida star Justin DuVernois has accepted a scholarship to punt at Illinois, replacing graduating Anthony Santella.

Justin DuVernois will be punting for national power St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this upcoming season. He will then attend the University of Illinois on scholarship.

"I just felt it was the right decision," DuVernois states. "Kansas offered me also, and I looked at Syracuse.

"I just got back today from the Syracuse camp. It was pretty windy, but I thought I did pretty well with the other competitors. It was me and one other kid at the top. They were gonna offer me a scholarship also, but since Illinois has been talking to me, I decided to commit."

DuVernois visited the Illini campus in April with his parents and liked what he saw.

"It was pretty cool to come to the practices. I had a good feel about the school, the academics and everything. I'm leaning toward going to the Business School."

He impressed onlookers by finishing first at a big Brandon Kornblue kicking camp on the campus of Florida International recently.

"I came in first in that one. It was a pretty good day of kicking. I had a couple of bad ones, but I thought I did pretty well. I'm trying to get the consistency.

"There were a couple other competitors I've seen before from Brandon Kornblue's camps. They've been ranked on his site in the Fab 50. I haven't been ranked on that yet, but after committing I don't know if he will rank me or not."

Wind is always a factor for punters, especially the swirling winds in Memorial Stadium. DuVernois talked about kicking with wind.

"The wind coming straight into your face, that doesn't help. The coaches always tell me to keep hold of the ball longer, pretty much try to kick it out of your hand. The least amount of drop that you have creates an easier punt for you.

"A crosswind will sometimes mess up your drop, but you just have to account for it and drop it differently. That was the thing with the Syracuse camp. You have to almost angle it another way so that the wind can carry it so it stays in bounds.

"You just have to blank out the wind and kick how you've been taught."

The drop is just one of many details that must be perfected.

"There's a lot of small things that affect your punting. You just have to work on the little things so you get a crisp movement and start to get the consistency that you want."

Like most punters these days, DuVernois prefers to drop his punts inside the 10 yard line rather than go for the coffin corner.

"I like kicking it inside the 10 yard line and getting it to bounce back. That's what I'm comfortable with. To make it bounce back, you have to kick your leg up straight through and kind of walk backwards. That's what I do."

St. Thomas Aquinas is in contention for a national championship and has numerous athletes with Division I scholarship offers. DuVernois was second string behind one of the top punters in the country last fall, so he's excited about his upcoming season.

"Last year I only punted once. But this year we go to Dallas to play Skyline. So it's a big year for us. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

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