The Punt-isher

On most football teams, the punter is just some guy who trots onto the field four or five times per game and kicks the ball 40 yards.

Most punters are just converted soccer players who went out for the football team to get their kicks - no pun intended.

But not so with Daniel Sepulveda.

Sepulveda is a football player first and foremost. And anybody who doubts that needs only to do a quick Google search of him, a search that will turn up video of the former Baylor punter taking a return man's head off in a 2004 game against North Texas.

"My background is a little different than the average (punter)," said the 6-2, 229-pound Sepulveda. "I take pride in the fact that (hitting) is something I look forward to."

The Pittsburgh Steelers hope he'll be delivering hits for them for the next 10 or so years.

The Steelers thought so much of Sepulveda that they made a trade to move up in the fourth round of last month's draft to acquire him. Some called it folly. Others, who had actually seen Sepulveda play, applauded the move.

"He certainly has the credentials that we were looking for," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert of Sepulveda, the first two-time winner of the Ray Guy award given to college football's best punter.

"He's been one of the leading punters in the nation, a big, strong, physical guy. He went there as a linebacker and turned into a punter. He turned into a good one. We're happy to have him."

That's right, Sepulveda was a linebacker.

So how did a kid who started out as a linebacker end up being the nation's best punter?

"I showed up at Baylor as an invited walk-on, so I was there at two-a-days from day one," said Sepulveda, who hadn't punted since the fourth grade. "They brought in a guy on scholarship who I got to see from day one. He had just gotten in, really wasn't a real big kid. Kind of just watching him I thought to myself, ‘I can compete with this guy.' So I talked to the special teams coach and he turned me down a couple of times. Then eventually I got my foot in the door and go the opportunity to kick heads-up with this guy in practice one day. When I hit a good one, I hit a good one, and it was clear that I was better than him."

He turned out to be better than anybody else in the country as well.

Sepulveda led the nation in 2006 with a 46.48-yard average. And his career average of 45.24 in four years for Baylor topped Shane Lechler's career mark to set a new NCAA record. He had 94 career punts of 50 yards or more. Last season, 26 of his 66 punts wound up inside the 20, nearly 40 percent.

But what's really amazing is that Sepulveda tore the ACL in his right (non-kicking leg) playing pickup basketball in April of 2006. Sepulveda was there on the field with his teammates, however, when Baylor's season opened with a game against TCU Sept. 3.

"We were pushing it there to play in that first game," Sepulveda said. "My surgery was April 27, and I ended up playing the first game on Sept. 3 against TCU. I guess that comes out to four months and a week."

Sitting out the season wasn't an option.

"I had already redshirted," said Sepulveda, who also ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine. "So it was either play or you're done. That was a motivating factor. I didn't want to miss any games."

Yep, a football player all the way.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nMost punters are just converted soccer players who went out for the \r\nfootball team to get their kicks - no pun intended.\r\n\r\n

But not so with Daniel Sepulveda.\r\n\r\n

Sepulveda is a football player first and foremost. And anybody who \r\ndoubts that needs only to do a quick Google search of him, a search \r\nthat will turn up video of the former Baylor punter taking a return \r\nman's head off in a 2004 game against North Texas.\r\n\r\n

\"My background is a little different than the average (punter),\" \r\nsaid the 6-2, 229-pound Sepulveda. \"I take pride in the fact that \r\n(hitting) is something I look forward to.\"\r\n\r\n

The Pittsburgh Steelers hope he'll be delivering hits for them for \r\nthe next 10 or so years.\r\n\r\n

The Steelers thought so much of Sepulveda that they made a trade to \r\nmove up in the fourth round of last month's draft to acquire him. Some \r\ncalled it folly. Others, who had actually seen Sepulveda play, \r\napplauded the move.\r\n\r\n

\"He certainly has the credentials that we were looking for,\" said \r\nSteelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert of Sepulveda, \r\nthe first two-time winner of the Ray Guy award given to college \r\nfootball's best punter.\r\n\r\n

\"He's been one of the leading punters in the nation, a big, strong, \r\nphysical guy. He went there as a linebacker and turned into a punter. \r\nHe turned into a good one. We're happy to have him.\"\r\n\r\n

That's right, Sepulveda was a linebacker.\r\n\r\n

So how did a kid who started out as a linebacker end up being the \r\nnation's best punter?\r\n\r\n

\"I showed up at Baylor as an invited walk-on, so I was there at \r\ntwo-a-days from day one,\" said Sepulveda, who hadn't punted since the \r\nfourth grade. \"They brought in a guy on scholarship who I got to see \r\nfrom day one. He had just gotten in, really wasn't a real big kid. Kind \r\nof just watching him I thought to myself, ‘I can compete with this \r\nguy.' So I talked to the special teams coach and he turned me down a \r\ncouple of times. Then eventually I got my foot in the door and go the \r\nopportunity to kick heads-up with this guy in practice one day. When I \r\nhit a good one, I hit a good one, and it was clear that I was better \r\nthan him.\"\r\n\r\n

He turned out to be better than anybody else in the country as well.\r\n\r\n

Sepulveda led the nation in 2006 with a 46.48-yard average. And his \r\ncareer average of 45.24 in four years for Baylor topped Shane Lechler's \r\ncareer mark to set a new NCAA record. He had 94 career punts of 50 \r\nyards or more. Last season, 26 of his 66 punts wound up inside the 20, \r\nnearly 40 percent.\r\n\r\n

But what's really amazing is that Sepulveda tore the ACL in his \r\nright (non-kicking leg) playing pickup basketball in April of 2006. \r\nSepulveda was there on the field with his teammates, however, when \r\nBaylor's season opened with a game against TCU Sept. 3.\r\n\r\n

\"We were pushing it there to play in that first game,\" Sepulveda \r\nsaid. \"My surgery was April 27, and I ended up playing the first game \r\non Sept. 3 against TCU. I guess that comes out to four months and a \r\nweek.\"\r\n\r\n

Sitting out the season wasn't an option.\r\n\r\n

\"I had already redshirted,\" said Sepulveda, who also ran a 4.59 \r\n40-yard dash at the combine. \"So it was either play or you're done. \r\nThat was a motivating factor. I didn't want to miss any games.\"\r\n\r\n

Yep, a football player all the way.\r\n\r\n

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.","mobileBody":" ","skipOnMobile":true,"media":[],"dateOverride":"2007-05-11T05:13:00","authorOverride":"Dale Lolley","role":"SteelCityInsider.com","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:429983]","mainImage":{},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:429983]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"9836","name":"Baylor - Football"},{"id":"369","name":"Baylor"},{"id":"182","name":"Pittsburgh 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