The Knuckleball

09.24.10
One of the most common things people ask me about my time in the NFL is the knuckleball punt. My knuckleball evolved back in 1996, somewhat by accident. I was playing for Green Bay at the time and was having too many touchbacks that season. I started practicing ways to control the distance of my punts, and I found that if I turned the ball and changed the angle of my foot, it took all of the rotation off of the ball.

It took me about a year and a half to really get comfortable using it in a game, but once I did, it became a valuable tool. Because the ball had no spin to it, the receiver didn’t know where it was going to go. Using the knuckleball in games, I was able to cause somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 fumbles. That was pretty exciting to me, because those are the kind of moments that can change the outcome of a game! It was also a source of confidence for me, because it gave me more personal control of the ball.

Besides being a strategic move in games, it’s also been a source of fun during my off-field kicking and at team practices… more than one pair of eyeglasses have bitten the dust and nose injuries have been suffered by people trying to conquer mastering the knuckleball catch.  (For the record, the record for most consecutive misses is 19 and it is held by Titans Assistant Equipment Manager, Joey Barranco).

One of my favorite memories using it was a few years ago. Pacman Jones had held out for all of training camp, and finally came to practice just a couple of days before our first game. Coach Fisher wanted him to catch a few punts, so I went outside with them and kicked several that Pacman caught fairly smoothly. He got a little over-confident at that point and started making taunting remarks to the effect of, “This ain’t nothin’….Why don’t you kick me something that’s a challenge!” So I introduced him to the knuckleball. It bounced right off of the forehead of his helmet - and that was the last time Pacman gave me a hard time.

The knuckleball punt has been very instrumental in my career and I’m happy that I’m able to teach the technique to other punters. During the time I spent with current Titans punter Brett Kern, I worked with him on the knuckleball, which he debuted in a pre-season game this year. When used strategically, the knuckleball punt can be valuable for any punter.