Summer of Work

Although he was one of the highest-ranked specialists in the 2008 recruiting class, sophomore punter Brad Nortman knew that he could do better than his 2009 numbers indicated. With a new approach, Nortman is expecting a better year on Wisconsin's special teams.

MADISON - For members of the University of Wisconsin football team that chose to spend the summer taking classes instead of going home, there is an ample amount of free time. Some athletes will meet up with teammates to work out, others will find part-time jobs and most will simply lounge around.

Sophomore punter Bradley Nortman didn't do much other than revamp his entire approach to punting.

After averaging 41.8 yards per punt last season, a mark that put him sixth in the Big Ten Conference in punting, Nortman, whose unit also finished 54th nationally in net punting at 35.3 yards per punt, realized he was too wound up in his performance last season, his first season where he had dedicated himself solely to punting.

"It was a roller coaster year," said Nortman, who average less than 40 yards per punt six times last year. "I got worked up in how good or bad my punts were last year. I had games, like against Illinois (a 51.7 average), where I was killing them and other games, like Penn State (a 37.4 average), where I wasn't. A lot of ups and downs."

In order to combat the high peaks and low valleys, Nortman worked on building strength and flexibility in his leg. Going though the punting motion itself, Nortman shorten his steps, he worked on consistency in his drop and a better follow through on his leg with his new leg strength and flexibility, all of which has resulted in solid punts during fall camp.

"My form is consistent, I am hitting better punts more often and I am not worried about blockers or anything else," Nortman said. "I am just more relaxed when I am back there. I have settled into the punter's role because I played other positions in high schools. I actually feel identified as a punter, and take quality over quantity."

While he has improved the rhythm of his routine, Nortman has learned to take the good with the bad in stride. Often getting down on himself last season for having a bad kick, Nortman's woes would snowball during the course of a game, resulting in more bad kicks and more negative feelings.

"You can do certain things to make you punt for the better but when it comes down to it, you can't be a perfect specialist," Nortman said. "This year, I am taking it one punt at a time, not worrying so much and trying to improve. Mentally, my mind is right, and that helps me a better punter than I was last year."

If his background is any indication of future success, Nortman is going to be all right. Coming from Brookfield Central High, the Lancers football program has produced great Badger talents in the last decade such as former Badgers Joe Thomas and Ben Strickland.

In addition to Nortman and teammate Rob Korslin, UW will welcome two more Lancers to the program next year (defensive tackle Bryce Gilbert and running back Jeff Lewis), showing that the pipeline into southeast Wisconsin isn't drying up anytime soon.

"We breed athletes in Brookfield, that's just how we do it there," Nortman said with a laugh. "It's passionate football, and it's great to come from a good football program you can catapult from to the next level. People hear you are from Brookfield Central and there is already a little bit of respect there. We have a lot of quality guys – both football and people."

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