Frosh punter delivers

It took freshman Punter Rob Park about a month to get the feel for collegiate football, but after getting his "feet wet" as the holder on placements, he found a comfort zone with his punting and took over the job for the Rebels two games ago. The results have been very good – a 41.8 yard average.

Punting the football is a lot like a golf swing.

It requires rhythm, and no tension can be present in the leg swing.

Once true freshman P Rob Park regained his rhythm and relaxed, good things started happening for him.

Perhaps we should start at the beginning – around the first of August of this season.

Park, an All-State QB in high school who led Memphis University School (MUS) to the Tennessee State Championship and was named an Elite 8 player among prep players in Tennessee, reported to Ole Miss in the summer just like a couple of dozen other freshmen football hopefuls, working hard in the offseason strength program in preparation for his rookie campaign.

With the Rebels' punting situation being very close to vacant, there was talk of Rob walking on campus and taking over instantly.

It didn't work that way. To be blunt, Park had the freshman jitters and had a less than stellar August.

"I didn't punt the way I knew I could. There was obviously pressure there, coming in as a true freshman and a lot of people expecting me to start," said Park. "I let the pressure get to me in terms of simply trying to hard. You can't do that in punting."

In short, he lost what got him a scholarship as one of the best prep punters in the region and one of the coolest QBs to ever don an MUS uniform – his rhythm, comfort zone and confidence.

"I wasn't disappointed as much as I was frustrated because I knew I could do better. Frustration is a source of more pressure and more pressure is a source of tension," he added.

Meanwhile, junior Will Moseley won the kickoff job, the long field goal job and the punting job as the season opened.

But while things weren't going smoothly for Park in the punting department, he – being a competitor - found a way to get on the field and help the Rebels – as the holder for placements.

"I needed a way to become a real part of the team and I needed to experience a college game atmosphere. (QB) Michael Spurlock was doing the holding in August and I was backing him up, but the coaches felt there was no need risking him getting his hand kicked or him getting injured holding for placements," Rob explained. "I started getting better at holding, and I certainly didn't mind doing it for the team, so I got the job. It helped me relax and calm down."

After he calmed down, he had a long talk with himself.

"It was time to re-focus on my punting. I was relaxed in games holding for placements in front of big crowds, so there was no reason not to be relaxed doing something I know I can do – punting," Park noted.

Park started hitting the ball better in practice and Moseley was being asked to do too much, the coaches felt. The coaches almost unveiled Park's punting in Knoxville versus Tennessee in front of 90,000-plus hostile fans, but felt he would be better-served with his debut being in Oxford the following week against Citadel before friendly fans.

In the two games he has punted, Park has had 12 kicks and has averaged 41.8 yards a kick. He had two punts of over 50 yards against The Citadel and had a key 62-yarder on his final punt against Alabama that took the Tide out of what was thought to be great field position. Even though Bama took over possession and drove for the winning field goal as time expired, it was harder for them to do so because of Park's last punt that put them back at their 24 yard line as their starting point.

How did he do it – the transformation and the subsequent results? He explains.

"I'm way more relaxed now. In August, I was trying to hit the ball as hard as I could and that's not the way to punt. Now, I get in a routine and just follow through with rhythm. I've been hitting it good lately and haven't been trying to kill the ball," he stated.

While Park's numbers and early debut have been successful, he believes he has more to show. He hasn't been as consistent as he would like, but that's coming soon. Maybe as early as this week against Kentucky.

"The hard part – the mind adjustment – is over. Now it's just a matter of finding the groove and staying in it," he closed.

It's exciting to know the punting position will be taken care of for three-and-a-half more years.

Rob Park's got it covered.

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