What is a punter in American football?

What Is A Football Punter? (Punters In The NFL)

Who is a punter in football? This can be hard to distinguish if you are not a dedicated fan of the sport. It is for this reason that we are going to be analyzing what a punter is, how to identify one, and other useful information about the American Football position.

What is a Punter In Football?

Punters are players who are part of the special team unit in football, just like holders and long snappers. In the game of football, their role is to catch the snap from the long snapper and kick it into the opposing team’s side of the ice – this is called a punt.

In simpler terms, a punt is an action in which a punter drops the ball with both hands (as if he were to drop it onto the field), followed by an instantaneous kick to the ball before it touches the ground. This is usually done on 4th down, and the main aim is to send the ball flying into the opponent’s end, pinning them there.

The difference between the kicker and the punter is that while a kicker takes kickoffs, PATs, and field goals, punters specialize primarily in taking punts. In addition, the table below shows some differences between a kickoff, a field goal, and a punt.

KickoffField GoalPunts
Carried out by a placekicker (often called kicker)It is carried out by the kicker (kick specialist)It is carried out by the punter
It is taken at the beginning of the game, at the start of each half, overtime, or after scoring playField Goals are taken when there is little time on clockThey are generally taken when a team is on their 4th down
The ball is held by a placeholder before it is kickedThe ball is held by the holderThe punter holds the ball
The ball is kicked while on the groundThe ball is kicked while on the groundThe ball is kicked before it touches the ground
Difference Between A Kickoffs, Punt, and Field Goal

What Do Punters Do In Football?

As mentioned earlier, the role of punters is to carry out punts (kicking the ball into the opponent’s side). A good punt is one that goes far into the opponent’s end of the field, making it harder for them to advance back into the punting team’s territory, and is high enough so that it takes a prolonged time to land.

What the prolonged landing does is that it gives the punting team the ability to move far into the opposing team’s end, increasing the chances of them impeding the punt returner from advancing.

How To Be A Punter In Football

To be a good punter in football, you need to be aware of the rules, roles, and skillsets required of a punt specialist, especially in competitive football leagues like the NFL.

Role of a Punter

Role of a Punter

In American football, the punter is a crucial player who frequently impacts the result of the game. Let’s examine the duties and roles that a punter may have in more detail:

1. Flipping the Field

One of the punter’s most important jobs is flipping the pitch, which simply means transferring the position of the game from one side of the field to the other.

A great punter can considerably help their team by kicking the ball deep into the opposing team’s territory, forcing them to start their offensive drive from a disadvantageous position.

Also, by flipping the field, the punter can make their team’s field shorter, making it easier for them to score on their next offensive drive.

2. Changing Momentum

The punter can also have a significant impact on the game’s momentum.  If the other team has been marching down the field and is about to score, a well-placed punt can force them to start their drive deep in their own territory.

This, in turn, can give the defense time to reorganize and restore control of the game. Also, If the punter makes a mistake and kicks the ball too short or too far, the opposition team will have an excellent field position. This also allows the opponent to score quickly and change the game’s momentum.

3. Field Position Control

Another key function of the punter is to control field placements. By accurately landing the ball within their area, the punter can force the other team to work with a longer field. As a result, mounting an effective offensive effort will be more challenging.

Furthermore, by directing the ball toward the sideline, the punter limits the opportunity for the other team to return the ball.

4. Tackling

Although punting is the punter’s major task, he or she is also responsible for making tackles on the field. This is because the punter is often the last line of defense, therefore he or she must be ready to make a tackle.

Furthermore, a skilled punter will not only make the tackle but will also ensure that the opposition team does not gain any additional yards.

5. Leader of Special Teams

Finally, the punter is generally seen as the leader of the special teams unit. The punter must communicate with the rest of the unit to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the play is performed correctly.

Furthermore, the punter must be able to read the special teams unit of the opposing team and alter their technique accordingly.

Punter Types In American Football

Types of Punters

Punters in American football are classified according to their playing style and game situation. The following are some of the most prevalent types of punters in American football:

  • Directional Punters:
    Directional punters are punters who kick the ball in a certain direction on the pitch, generally to avoid a hazardous return by the other team.
  • Coffin Corner Punters:
    These punters attempt to punt the ball toward the sideline near the other team’s goal line, making the opposition team’s return difficult and perhaps putting them deep in their own territory.
  • Line Drive Punters:
    These punters try to kick the ball as hard and low as possible to prevent the other team’s returner from making a fair catch.
  • Aussie Rules Punters:
    Punters in Australia use a running start and a drop punt to generate a high, spinning ball that is difficult for the other team to catch and return.
  • Rugby-style punters:
    These punters, like rugby punters, rush toward the line of scrimmage and kick the ball while on the move. This allows them to dodge the other team’s rush and maybe gain yardage on the punt.
  • Quick Kickers:
    On third down or in short-yardage situations, these punters kick the ball quickly in order to surprise the opposing team and secure a sudden change in field position.

7 Basic Skills Required for a Punter

Skills Required for a Punter

Punting in American football necessitates a unique set of skills that establish this position apart from others on the squad. Here are some of the abilities required to be a successful punter:

1. Kicking Method

The most crucial skill of a punter is their kicking technique. They must be able to accurately and forcefully kick the ball downfield. The punter must also be able to kick with both feet since the angle of the punt may necessitate changing their kicking foot.

2. Coordination

To catch the snap from the center, control the ball, and then execute the punt, a punter must be coordinated. The punter must have excellent hand-eye coordination to catch the snap and control the ball while preparing to punt.

3. Mental Toughness

Punters must be psychologically tough as they are constantly put under pressure to make a successful punt at critical times. They must be able to withstand pressure while remaining cool in stressful situations.

4. Physical Strength

A punter must be physically strong in order to generate enough force to launch the ball downfield. They must also be physically capable of withstanding the physical rigors of the position, such as taking hits from opposing players while executing a punt.

5. Awareness and Vision

A punter’s field vision and awareness must be extraordinary. They must be able to read defenses and adjust their kicking strategy accordingly. They must also be fully aware of their surroundings and be situated to avoid potential blocks and tacklers while executing a punt.

6. Decision Making

Punters must be capable of making sound decisions. They must be able to read the field scenario and make quick and accurate decisions, such as whether to fake or conduct a regular punt.

7. Communication

The ability of a punter to communicate effectively is crucial. They must be able to communicate with their coverage unit, notifying them of the punt’s location and when they must be prepared to tackle the returner.

Techniques Used by a Punter

Techniques Used By A Punter

Punters can kick the ball in a number of different ways, depending on the situation and their personal preferences. Among the most common methods are:

  • Traditional Punt
    This is the most common technique which involves the punter dropping the ball vertically and kicking it with the front of their foot. This technique results in a high, arching kick that helps the punting squad to go downfield and avoid a significant return.
  • Rugby-style Punt
    Before punting the ball, the punter takes a few steps to the side. This allows the punter to avoid the opposing team’s special teams rush, which may result in a longer kick.
  • Roll-out Punt
    Before kicking the ball, the punter rolls to one side. This is important when the punting team is attempting to pin the other team deep within their own territory. It enables the punter to kick the ball at an angle and near the sideline.

Related Post: What Is A Punt Returner?

Who Are Some Of The Top Punters in NFL History?

Top Punters in NFL History

Punting is an integral part of American football, and some of the best punters in NFL history have been punters.

The position requires a unique collection of skills, such as precision, power, and the ability to read the field. Here are the top five punters in NFL history, according to their accomplishments and impact on the game.

1. Guy Ray

Ray Guy is largely regarded as the best punter in NFL history. In 2014, he became the first punter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Guy was also known for his powerful leg and ability to trap opponents deep into their own territory. In addition, he was the first punter selected in the first round of the NFL draft, showcasing his talent and impact on the game.

Guy is also a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro.

2. Shane Lechler

From 2000 through 2017, Shane Lechler played as a Bowler for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans. During his time playing, he was well-known for his long-distance punting precision.

He holds the NFL record for the highest career punting average with 47.6 yards per punt. In addition, he is a six-time All-Pro pick.

3. Sammy Baugh

With a playing career spanning from 1937 until 1952, Sammy Baugh proved himself as a talented Washington Redskins player. He played a variety of positions for his team, one of which included that of a punter.

Baugh popularized the “quick kick,” a punting method in which the ball was punted on first or second down to catch the opponent off guard.

Baugh was also named to the Pro Bowl six times and was also a four-time First-Team All-Pro pick.

4. Johnny Hekker

Johnny Hekker has been a member of the Los Angeles Rams since 2012 and has rapidly established himself as one of the best punters in the league. He has six Pro Bowl appearances and four First-Team All-Pro selections.

Hekker is well-known for his accuracy and ability to execute fake punts, frequently flinging downfield passes to catch opponents off guard.

He also has the record for the longest Super Bowl punt in history, spanning 65 yards.

5. Darren Bennett

Darren Bennett played with the San Diego Chargers and the Minnesota Vikings from 1995 to 2005. He was lauded for his steadiness and ability to trap opponents deep in their own zone.

Bennett was a two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro pick.

He was also the first Australian-born NFL player, and he popularized the Australian punting style. It entails kicking the ball in order to create a bounce and make it more difficult for opponents to field the punt.

Punters with The Most Yards in NFL History

The player who recorded the most yards as a punter in the NFL is Jeff Fealgles with 71,211 yards. He was born in Anaheim California and played for five teams during his time in the NFL from 1988-89 season till 2008-09 season.

1Jeff Feagles71,211
2Shane Lechler68,678
3Andy Lee68,405
4Sean Landeta60,707
5Brad Maynard56,021
6Dustin Colquitt53,660
7Sam Koch52,868
8Donnie Jones52,490
9Lee Johnson 51,979
10Chris Gardocki50,336
Data collected from footballdb.com


That’s all there is to it! A punter in American football is more than simply someone who kicks a ball. They are highly skilled athletes who can turn the game around with a single punt.

Punters are an important component of any football squad, whether they are firing a big kick down the pitch or performing a tricky fake punt.

So, the next time you see a punter on the pitch, show your appreciation for all the hard work they put in.

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