The Punter Position (Everything You Need to Know)

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

If you find yourself seated to even the most intense football fan you know at a game, they are probably likely to glance at their phone, or turn their attention to something else as the punt team comes on the field. Quite frankly, nobody is thrilled to see the punter come out after a failed offensive possession.

Within the split-second that the punter sends off a high-flying football, a lot more goes into it than what meets the eye. Punting is an art form, as punters today exhibit the ability to creatively get the job done with a variety of approaches, and ways they position the football in hopes of pinning opponents deep to start their drive.

While it’s far from glamorous, the punter plays a critical role in positioning a team’s defense for success, and contributing to wins on a weekly basis. As certain parts of football change, the importance and value of a punter isn’t one of them.

What does a Punter do?

As team’s offenses are unable to drive the ball downfield and score, it’s the job of the punter to flip the field position through their duty of punting the football. As they catch the snap from the long snapper well behind the LOS, it’s their job to put a punt in the air with adequate hang-time, accuracy, and touch, setting up the coverage team to down the opponent as quickly as possible once their returner catches the punt.

What is a Punter in Football - Johnny Hekker

Their job requires the leg strength to let it fly from their own end zone, as well as the delicate touch needed on short punts to land the ball inside the 20 yard line. A punter is a lot like a golfer with the ability to execute a variety of different trajectories while remaining accurate. In a punter’s case, it’s the variety of hang-time, length, spin needed to execute whatever the special teams coordinator wants done.

Occasionally, the athleticism of a punter will be on display as teams will look to execute fake punts on 4th down to get the offense back on the field. In these situations, punters are asked to run the ball, or even throw it. With a quick look on YouTube, you’ll be sure to find both the highs and lows of punters getting involved trying to help pickup a first down.

Many punters also add another job title as the team’s holder on extra points and field goals. Kickers are particular with how they like the ball placed down, and it is a job that must be executed in a split-second. While it’s a secondary duty for punters, and rather monotonous, it’s yet another way that punters add value to the special teams unit.

Why is the Position Called a Punter?

A punt occurs in football generally when the offense is unable to convert on 3rd down. A punt is the result of a team looking to flip field position, in hopes of forcing their opponent to have to put together a long drive to score.

The punter is the one responsible for punting the football after he receives the snap. Most often, the punter will take a few steps to gather himself before kicking the football, as the punt team looks to run downfield and stop the chance of a big return from the opposition.

This is differentiated from a kick, which occurs on extra points, field goals, and kickoffs.

What are some other names for the Punter Position?

Abbreviation: P

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play Punter?

Leg Strength

Body Type (General Estimate)
Height: 5’10-6’2
Weight: 180-210 Pounds
Build: Slim

Most often, NFL punters are smaller in stature, and possess a slim figure compared to the athletes they are surrounded by. As you would expect, they possess a lot of flexibility, with the ability to generate power from their lower body.

Who are some of the best Punters ever?

Shane Lechler (2000-2017) - Throughout his career, Lechler pieced together plenty of accolades in his time with the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans. Most notably, he holds the NFL record for the highest average yards per punt at 47.6.

What is a Punter in Football - Shane Lechler

Ray Guy (1973-1986) - This name may sound familiar to you, as the most outstanding punter in the collegiate ranks is honored with the Ray Guy Award each season. His value as a punter was noticed so much so that he was a first-round draft pick in 1973, and pieced together a decorated career in helping the Oakland Raiders win 3 Super Bowl titles.

Why is the Punter so important?

The field position battle in football is directly correlated to teams chances of scoring more points throughout a game. In mathematical terms, the longer an offense is forced to go to score a touchdown, the less likely they will be to get it done. While factors such as turnovers, or a big kick return go into this, the punter plays an essential role in forcing opposing offenses to work for every scoring opportunity throughout a game.

All of the little aspects of a punter’s job such as hang time, accuracy and touch help setup the coverage team with the opportunity to pin opponents deep. Whether it’s a high scoring shooting, or a low scoring battle, a punter’s contribution is one that won’t get much credit, but is highly noted by his teammates.

An analytics junkie and casual observer may not agree over whether “momentum” is real in a game or not – but there is no doubt a punter’s job can affect a game statistically, or in terms of momentum no matter how you look at it. A good punt is the difference between a defense taking the field with a relaxed confidence, or on edge as an offense takes the field already in the defense’s territory of the field.

Want more?

Click the link to see our collection of special teams videos.