by Kent Sterling
I love talking to specialists. You want great answers, ask a kicker, punter, or long-snapper a question. Who’s a better talker for the Indianapolis Colts than punter Pat McAfee? Kicker Adam Vinatieri isn’t far behind, and long snapper Matt Overton is pretty damn good too.
At Indiana, Mitch Ewald is money, and Erich Toth is equally good. The long snapper? That will wait for another week. As the Hoosiers prepare for their challenge today against Michigan at the Big House, I spoke to Toth about punting and holding for Ewald’s field goal and extra point attempts.
Specialists are a little like relief pitchers in baseball – they are only noticed when they screw up. Bring in a lefty, like Randy Choate for the St. Louis Cardinals, to get one batter in a pressure situation, and he’s either a nearly anonymous entry in a box score after throwing a couple of pitches to get the out, or he’s in the headlines for grooving a pitch that lands in the bleachers.
With Toth, he either punts the ball the correct distance and direction or people in the stands point and swear. As a holder, his work is even more critical. The occasions when a holder screws up are so few and far in between that the errors during a close game are almost guaranteed to earn a spot on ESPN’s “Not the Top Ten.”
Worse, teammates often treat the specialists with total indifference. Very few teammates view them as bona fide football players.
Toth talks about his life as a kicker and hope that he will be able to to earn a chance to kick as well as punt. His work today, as is always the case, will have a lot to do with the outcome of the game.