Walk-on wonders

There's a reason colleges are reluctant to spend scholarships on punting prospects: A surprising number of walk-ons wind up being better than their scholarship counterparts. That certainly has been the case at the University of Tennessee.

Remember Justin Reed? The 6-7, 250-pounder earned second-team All-America honors in 2000 after averaging 47.4 yards per kick as a senior at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. He was a bust at UT, however, never earning the chance to launch one punt in a real game. The Vols eventually got some mileage out of him as a backup tight end.

Now consider the glut of walk-ons who eventually became excellent punters for the Vols:

- Ron Widby, signed to a basketball scholarship, walked on with the football program in 1963 and earned All-America honors as a punter in 1966. He went on to enjoy a seven-year career in the National Football League.

- Craig Colquitt won the job as a sophomore walk-on in '75 and left three years later as the career leader in punting average at 42.6 yards per kick. A third-round pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, he spent seven productive years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

- Dale Schneitman handled the punting chores in '78, averaging a solid 40.3 yards.

- Bob Garmon won the punting job as a walk-on in 1985, held the post for three years and currently stands ninth on the career list with a 40.6-yard average.

- Joey Chapman handled the punting chores in 1990 and distinguished himself with a solid 41.9-yard average that year.

- Tom Hutton won the punting job as a walk-on in 1991 and kept it for four years. He averaged 40.7 yards per kick – seventh on UT's all-time list – then spent five years in the NFL.

- Senior walk-on Chris Hogue beat out scholarship freshman David Leaverton for the punting chores in 1994 and averaged a credible 39.4 yards per kick that season.

- Dustin Colquitt, Craig's oldest son, was overlooked by college recruiters after punting for just one year in high school. He walked on at UT in 2001, however, beat out the afore-mentioned Justin Reed and left four years later with a 42.6 career average that ranks second in program history. A third-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, he is soon to begin his third season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Although Tennessee has produced more than its share of rags-to-riches stories involving walk-on punters through the years, the ultimate example has to be Daniel Sepulveda.

After spending a year as a walk-on linebacker prospect at Baylor University, he decided to give punting a try. Sepulveda wound up setting NCAA records for career punting average (45.24 yards) and punts of 50 yards or more (94). He was the first punter selected in the 2007 NFL Draft, being tabbed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 4.


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