Packers have high hopes for third-round punter

The Packers quietly made history by selecting punter B.J. Sander out of Ohio State in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft.<P> The pick marked the first time the Packers had spent a third round pick on a punter in more than 20 years, and the second-highest a punter has ever gone to Green Bay in the draft. Sander's spot at 87th overall eclipses the 1999 selection of Josh Bidwell in the fourth round by nearly 50 spots.<p>

Sander has a few interesting entries on his resume that must have caught GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman's eye.

*Sander won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter his senior year.

*Playing in the rugged Big Ten, Sander managed a 41-yard net average and 39 punts inside the 20-yard-line.

*Sander punts left-footed, which always presents a slight challenge to returners.

A resume alone isn't enough to make a punter third-round bait. Sander's pre-draft workout on a cold, windy, Wisconsin-like day in Ohio helped convince Packer brass that Sander is North Division tough.

Sander becomes one of three punters on the Packer roster, joining free agent signee Travis Dorsch and former Australian rules player Nathan Chapman. While he's yet to punt in Lambeau, the job looks like Sander's, considering the investment.

"I figure that we possibly drafted a starter at that position, a very valuable position to help our field position," Packer GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "I don't look at it as overly risky. I look at it as risky if I didn't take him."

And here's something you probably didn't know about Sander: His major at OSU is Turf and Grass Science.

Five years ago, the Packers also looked for a punter on day one of the draft and came up with Josh Bidwell. A fourth-round pick (133rd overall), Bidwell spent his rookie season on the non-football injury list after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. In just one year, Bidwell successfully underwent treatment and returned to the game, making veteran Louis Aguiar expendable and beating out Tom Hutton for the starting job. Bidwell held his role for four seasons before signing with the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2003 campaign.

The highest the Packers have ever drafted punter was nearly a quarter-century ago, and would make a good trivia question. Green Bay selected Ray Stachowicz out of Michigan State in the third round of the 1981 draft, 62nd overall. The Packers are definitely pinning their hopes that this time the third-round punter will fare better than the Stachowicz. He played with the Packers for two forgettable seasons, then played just two games for the Bears before his NFL career came to a close. Stachowicz was a product of the same stellar draft in which the Packers took Cal QB Rich Campbell with the sixth overall pick in the entire draft.


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