With each swing of his powerful left leg, the Chiefs’ Dustin Colquitt takes aim at some of the greatest punters in NFL history.
There are former Oakland Raiders Ray Guy and Shane Lechler. Chiefs Hall of Famer Jerrel Wilson. Even Colquitt’s father, two-time Super Bowl champion Craig Colquitt of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All were great punters, but.…
“As players in the NFL, you strive to be the best player ever,” Colquitt said, “and I'm a punter. So I strive to be the best punter ever.
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“I want to be in the same argument and in the same sentences with Ray Guy or Shane Lechler, who is year in and year out the best punter out there.”
Colquitt, 29, was recognized for his skills last season with his first Pro Bowl appearance and rewarded with a five-year, $18.75 million contract, making him the highest-paid punter in the NFL.
Colquitt already has surpassed Wilson as the franchise’s all-time leader with a 44.72-yard gross punting average and 39.14 net. In fact, that 39.14 net ranks fourth since the NFL-AFL merger in 1966.
Even more significant is that he ranks first in club history with 250 punts inside the 20, including 42 last season, the second-most in a season in league history to the 46 by Arizona’s Dave Zastudil in 2012.
Those 250 punts inside the 20 are the most in the NFL since his rookie year of 2005 and constitute the mark of a great punter.
“It’s someone who can set up a defense with a lot of field position and wins that field position battle every week,” he said. “It’s someone you can depend on. I don’t like the word consistent, but somebody who is going to keep you in games.
“Anytime you get it inside the 10 ... you close an offense’s playbook. When you get inside that 10-yard line, if you look over there after a punt, you can see their offensive coordinator slam his playbook.”
Having someone who can dictate field position can influence the play-calling of a coach or decisions on whether to go for it on fourth downs near midfield, or let Colquitt bury the opponent near its goal line.
“The punter hasn’t been more important (than he is) in today’s football,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Not that they weren’t before, but field position is huge. It’s tough for offenses to drive long fields. The percentages go way down on scores when you have to sustain drives. So to have a good punter … a great punter … it makes things easier.”
Special teams coach Dave Toub, who spent the past nine seasons in Chicago, likes Colquitt’s ability to bomb away from deep in Chiefs territory or apply the right touch for a directional kick inside the 20.
“I’ve had a lot of good punters … Brad Maynard and (Adam) Podlesh at Chicago,” Toub said, “and Colquitt is different than those guys. He’s a lot better in a lot of ways. He’s a lot more powerful.…
“We’re going to let him bomb the ball at times ... and be able to cover it in a different style. We’re going to ask him to do a little more directional stuff, which he’s really buying into. He loves it. He’s very talented, and we’re lucky to have him.”
Colquitt, who set the single-season franchise record of 45.89 yards per punt in 2011, breaking Wilson’s mark of 45.53 that stood since 1973, is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft.
During the offseason, Colquitt examined all 83 punts from last year and picked out areas he could improve.
“I look at the ones where I could have gotten more field for the defense,” he said, “or I could have got that one inside the 5 as opposed to the inside the 15.…”
Colquitt is from the first family of punters in NFL history — besides his father, his cousin Jimmy spent 1985 at Seattle; and his younger brother Britton has punted for the Denver Broncos since 2010 and owns the NFL’s top net punting average, 39.47, since 1970.
His dad’s two Super Bowl rings and his brother performing in the AFC West provide plenty of motivation for Colquitt.
“I'm tired of hearing about those rings,” Colquitt said. “We've got a lot of guys in this organization that it is about time in their careers … it’s time for a ring. Andy wants one ... if you don't talk about it, you can't get there.
“It’s fun seeing my brother twice a year at Denver … he’s doing a good job out there and that’s made it a fun rivalry besides being an AFC West rivalry.”
Colquitt envies his brother’s opportunity to kick in the Rocky Mountain altititude, where the ball carries farther, but he wouldn’t change places with him.
“I love the city, and I’m seeing great things now,” said Colquitt, the Chiefs’ third-round draft pick in 2005. “I’m here to stay. That’s what I said when I first came here.
“You look at Jerrel Wilson and Jan Stenerud in the Ring of Honor, and you say, ‘I want to be up there one day.”