'08 Unwrapped: Daniel Zychlinski

With the graduation losses of kicker Derek Belch and punter Jay Ottovegio, the Cardinal will seek to fill the specialist void with the 2008 recruiting class. One piece of the puzzle may come in the form of incoming walk-on kicker Travis Golia from La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day School. After a late January official visit by another target, the punter situation also looks to be coming into focus.

Over this past weekend, 6'3" 215-pound Tampa (Fla.) punter Daniel Zychlinski trekked out to California. By the time he returned to Florida, Zychlinski was in possession of a scholarship offer from his dream school and Stanford was in p possession of a prized commitment from a needed specialist.

"I absolutely loved it," the Polish punter reports following his visit. "Basically, right now in the recruiting process and throughout the whole recruiting process I've been looking for a perfect blend of academics and athletics and Stanford is the answer to that."

"It was great," he continues. "I got to meet Coach Harbaugh... I had breakfast with him my last day of the visit and I just love the energy that he brings to the game, especially since he's a brand new coach coming into his second year at Stanford after already coming off of upsets of the juggernauts like USC and Cal. Basically I just love his energy and how he's young and he can relate with the players. I talked to most of the players and they just love going to battle for him, so I'm glad that I'm going into an environment like that."

Clearly excited by the prospect of matriculating to Stanford and playing for Jim Harbaugh, Zychlinski nonetheless maintains some caution while he waits for one final development in his recruitment.

"It's not final yet because they're still completing the application process because that's the formality they have to do at Stanford," he points out. "But I should know that decision probably Wednesday. I don't think it should be a problem but it's not final yet."

As Zychlinski suggests, his commitment to Stanford is contingent on being accepted through the school's admissions process. Having already submitted his application, he now only has to wait for final confirmation before being set on Stanford as his college destination. The serious student reports a 5.8 grade point average and 28 score on the ACT. The reported GPA may raise eyebrows among the vast majority of fans accustomed to grades on a 4-point scale, but Zychlinski has charted a different path in high school that explains why his grades are calculated on a different scale.

"I'm in the IB program, International Baccalaureate," Zychlinski explains. "Basically, IB is the highest and most rigorous high school program one can enroll in and it's even higher than AP credits. And it's an international organization, so there are IB schools all over the world. And basically, it's the best program to get a general overview and a great look at all different cultures. Basically it's the best academics around in high school and, like I said, the most rigorous. That's basically how I can describe it."

In sum, "academics have always been important to me and I've always been a scholar-athlete," he says.

Though Stanford fans can be secure in the knowledge that the football team is gaining yet another fine scholar-athlete, fans unfamiliar with Zychlinski's exploits on the football field may be understandably curious regarding what kind of prospect the Cardinal look to be locking up as a scholarship player come fall.

"I am a punter first," the incoming recruit reflects. "But I also field goal kick and kick off, so I do all three. But I'm a punter first."

As a senior at Tampa's King Senior HS, Zychlinski contributed in all three of those phases of the kicking game. As a punter, he booted the pigskin 33 times for a 40.52-yard average, pinning the ball inside the 20-yard line 6 times. Kicking off, he placed 3 of his 5 kicks in the end zone for touchbacks. Finally, as a place kicker, he made 12-of-13 extra point attempts and 4-of-6 field goal attempts, with a 41-yard long. His efforts made him a second-team all-Hillsborough county specialist and the #9 ranked punter prospect in the senior class according to Scout.com.

After the season, his combination of punting prowess and academic excellence made Zychlinski a natural target for various Ivy League football programs. Despite that interest, the punter held out in the hopes of a chance to play major college football while also pursuing his educational goals. Aware of the potential to impress college recruiters at the annual event held by national kicking guru Chris Sailer, Zychlinski traveled to Las Vegas earlier this month for the 6th annual national kicking event hosted by Sailer.

"Actually, that's where I got noticed," he reveals. "This past January, the weekend of January 13, I went to the national kicking event and I performed probably the best I ever have in my life. Since then, I've garnered a lot of interest from a lot of big schools because as you probably know a lot of coaches go to scout kickers and punters. That's when I first sparked up a good relationship with Stanford."

Indeed, Stanford Special Teams Coordinator D.J. Durkin and Stanford Linebackers Coach Andy Buh attended the event and paid particularly close attention to the punters, with the hope of finding a late-emerging option for the Cardinal. They came away especially impressed by Zychlinski, setting in motion the fast moving chain of events that led to a Stanford scholarship offer, official visit, and commitment all by the end of the month.

Notably, Stanford was far from the only school to take notice of Zychlinski after his performance at the Sailer event. While he came into the event with scattered interest from Ivy League programs, he came out with a bevy of options to choose from.

"Since that event I've got a handful of offers from other schools and a lot of interest," he reports. "The schools that offered me are Air Force, Toledo – I took a visit to Toledo last weekend before I went to Stanford – UNLV, New Mexico, Rice. And I had interest from Oregon State and Missouri. All from the camp. Before the camp I had a lot of interest from Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Penn but I was still looking for a great football school as well. And that's why Stanford is a perfect fit – because it's an Ivy League education with D-1 Pac-10 football."

"Basically all I can say, and this is seriously my feeling, is that Chris Sailer is the best in the business," the grateful recruit concludes. "He has just given everybody the opportunity, all the kickers and punters the opportunity, to compete against the best all on the same field at the same time for everyone to see. That's an opportunity that wasn't around a few years ago and just to have that opportunity is great."

The admiration is mutual, with Sailer giving his seal of approval to the new Cardinal commit.

"Daniel is an outstanding punter," Sailer tells The Bootleg. "He is big, tall, strong and consistent. He has come a long way in his development as a punter and has proven that he is one of the very best in the nation. Daniel has tremendous work ethic and great character. Has everything it takes to be a great D-1A punter."

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