With Maryland junior punter Nate Renfro set to graduate a year early, the Terps found themselves in need of another booter with only walk-on Lee Shrader left on the current roster. On Dec. 13, though, special teams coach Andre Powell helped fill the void when New Egypt High School (New Egypt, N.J.) senior punter Nick Pritchard announced he’d be accepting the Terps’ walk-on offer.
The 5-foot-9.5, 205-pound Pritchard had one other walk-on opportunity, from Old Dominion, but he’d been favoring Maryland for the last three months.
“I’m excited and honored to be continuing my career at Maryland. It’s a great opportunity for me as a student and as an athlete,” said Pritchard, who is set to enroll in January. “I’ve been there a couple times now, and I just fell in love with the school. And my dad actually went to school there for three-and-a-half years before joining the fire department in Prince George’s County. He’s originally from [Maryland], so he was real happy for me, and I couldn’t be happier myself.”
Pritchard explained how ODU was the only program that really showed genuine interest heading into his senior season. But thanks to a connection he had in the Carolinas, where Powell just so happens to recruit, the Terps’ assistant got wind of him.
Pritchard then reached out to Powell earlier this fall, and the two developed a relationship from there.
“After I first contacted [Powell], we usually talked like once a week just to see how things were going,” Pritchard said. “We had a real good relationship. Then after awhile, when he looked at my film and they started evaluating me, he said I was the No. 1 punter on his board and the kind of punter he was looking for. So then we started to talk more about what I needed to do to enroll at Maryland, qualify there and things like that.”
The Jersey product ended up trekking down to College Park on two separate occasions during the season, first for the UMD-Iowa bout and later for the Terps-Rutgers affair.
“I thought the campus was beautiful, and the student section was pretty crazy for the Iowa game,” Pritchard said. “I really, really liked the campus and also the stadium. I liked all the brick buildings there, how it’s like a small town, and how it’s close to D.C. It’s a really nice place, and I definitely fit in there.
“Maryland is also a really good academic school. I want to major in secondary education, so I feel like I can get a great degree there [in that field].”
Pritchard returned to UMD Dec. 13 when the Terps were actually hosting 10 official visitors. Unlike those 10, however, Pritchard had to pay his own way, but the New Egypt prospect said that final trip solidified his feelings about the program.
“I went down there to meet the academic advisors, tour the campus again and just to talk to Coach Powell and some other guys,” said Pritchard, whose parents accompanied him all three times he was in College Park this year. “And we all just loved it.
“I called Coach Powell a day later to let him know I was coming, and he was really excited. He was telling me more about applying, getting a roommate and things like that, so I’ll probably come back down again with my parents to get everything squared away.”
Now that he’s on board, Pritchard said he’s looking forward to competing with Shrader for the starting gig. He said Powell let him know it would be an open competition, and whoever performed best in spring/summer camp would earn the job.
“Coach Powell said he expects me to come in there in January, and then in the spring fight for the starting spot,” Pritchard said. “And I believe if I work hard enough, and kick like I know how, I’ll have a shot.”
That would be a fairly momentous accomplishment considering Pritchard didn’t begin punting until the eighth grade. He basically played soccer his entire life up until then, and even earned a spot on a national traveling squad.
“But then I was like, ‘I don’t know, soccer is boring, I’m going to try football,’” Pritchard said. “And the football coach at the time was my eighth grade history teacher, so he got me involved with it. Then it was just a smooth transition from soccer to punter on the football team. So I went from there, and I loved [punting].”
Pritchard, who described himself as a traditional style, straight-on booter, said he learned his craft from former Rutgers punters Charlie Titus and Lee McDonald, who both operate a specialty kicking camp. The New Egypt product said both were “huge” influences on him, and helped refine his style.
Last year Pritchard averaged 40.3 yards per punt and a hangtime of 4.3 seconds. He also had a chance to play tight end and linebacker for the first time during his career, tallying a handful of tackles and recording a touchdown reception as well.
Just don’t expect him to start snagging passes in College Park.
“No, I’m a punter,” laughed Pritchard. “I’m just looking forward to getting down to Maryland, doing my best and hopefully having a great career there.”
Punter Pritchard Sees Opportunity At UMD
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