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He got his parents to measure how long he could keep the ball in the air. He just liked being really good at it, and getting better. He experimented with different techniques. One day, he said, not long after he began kicking, he was playing football with friends and a pass was thrown way out of bounds. King went to retrieve it, but instead of throwing it back, he kicked it. A new coach took over his team during junior year, and King told him about his kicking. During his senior year, a friend mentioned offhandedly that he could get paid to kick.
King says he legitimately thought the guy was making fun of him. After high school, he went to Fort Valley State, a small historically black college thirty miles from home. Eventually he was told flat out by the coaching staff that if he wanted to keep his scholarship, he had to kick. He may as well be a professional darts player hanging at the gym with a bunch of M. He was simply enamored of the feeling of success when he booted a big one.
Nantz's Preview of Pebble...
When he had bad games, he was known to stay in the stadium long after his friends and family had gone home, putting on a pair of headphones and kicking ball after ball well into the night. Assistant coaches eventually forbade him from staying late, not so much to protect his leg, but because his obsessive work kept them from getting on with their own lives. As King recalls, he responded by surreptitiously finding out where the light box to the stadium was and learning how to break into the weight room after hours.
So he got on an airplane for the first time in his life and travelled to Wisconsin, which is where the Legend of Marquette King was born.
His final kicks of the weekend are immortalized in a YouTube video ; screams of shock and amazement can be heard as soon as the ball comes off his foot. Word began to spread among the tightly knit kicking community and eventually among N. After graduating, he was invited to Raiders camp, where he impressed coaches so much that, despite injuring his foot during the preseason, he was given an unlikely roster spot, and placed on injured reserve for the season.
He became the only black punter in the league, and just the fifth black man in the history of the N. It is difficult to explain why African-American punters are practically unheard of in a league that at any given moment is roughly two-thirds black. The other assumption here is that black football players always have better speed and strength than their white counterparts. Greg Coleman has a slightly different theory. Coleman was the first black man to play exclusively at punter in the N.
He retired in , and is now a sideline reporter for the Minnesota Vikings.
Q: Is the punter always protected?
Few punters, Coleman told me over the phone, make N. They have to keep honing their craft and take another shot at it the following season, and maybe the season after that. They have to train early and exclusively at their craft to have a shot at a professional team. Camps can cost as much as four thousand dollars for a week of private lessons and film studies, and even with such training, an N.
There are thirty-two teams in the league, and they each typically employ one player at placekicker and one at punter. There are, then, about sixty-four jobs to be divided among thousands of kids who train for this one thing. Kickers commonly earn more than two million dollars per year, and they rarely suffer the kind of high-speed collisions endured by those at other positions. At any given time, the oldest player in the league is almost always a kicker. Morton Andersen, a placekicker for multiple teams, had a career that lasted twenty-five years, an astonishing number when you consider that the average career, according to the N.
Players Association, lasts a little over three years. All of this helps explain why a lucrative cottage industry has sprung up catering to parents looking for a way to help their kids pursue N. For such an experience, families and loved ones can expect to pay anywhere between three hundred and twenty-five dollars and six hundred dollars per day for attendance, a price tag that does not include travel, merchandise, instructional DVDs, equipment, or other extras.
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And yet this is a typical path for a young N. Which makes King even more of an outlier. He taught himself, and was invited to his first camp free of charge in his senior year of college. But for those not possessed of his astounding drive and talent, the very possibility of a career in kicking or punting is tied to the financial means of your family. In other words, if you want to play this position, with its low physical impact, you have to be able to afford it.
Greg Coleman came along before the rise of specialized kicking camps. He was drafted in , by the Cincinnati Bengals, and though he exclusively punted in college, he was expected, at the Bengals camp, to try out for receiver and running back spots before kicking. He balked at this, but, being an unsigned rookie, he had little leverage.
As he describes it, when he finally got around to taking kicking reps in front of coaches, he was winded and consequently underperformed, thus losing his chance. He was cut before the season began. He took a job teaching high-school history, in Florida, but maintained a practice routine, learning more about both the craft of kicking and the business of the N.
He got another shot the next year, signing with the Cleveland Browns on January 1, Cleveland coach Forrest Gregg, like the Bengals coaches before him, wanted to use Coleman as a running back, but the young kicker, now a year wiser, took a stand: he told his coach to either let him kick exclusively or cut him from the team. Gregg gave him his chance. The next year, though, Gregg was fired, and Coleman was let go, replaced by a younger, white draft pick.
By week nine of the ensuing season, Coleman was still living in Cleveland, out of work, and his wife was pregnant. Then he got a call from the Minnesota Vikings. He spent the next nine years punting in Minneapolis, racking up impressive numbers in his career as a precision punter. You got stuff thrown at you. The adjectives that were hurled … monkey. The N-word. Not everyone was happy to see him on the field. Some of the same fans shouting racial epithets at Greg Coleman were cheering for the black running backs and receivers on their own teams. Keep your chin up, and your mouth shut.
Ax accident left punter embarrassed but not defeated
Do better than they expect you to and silence them with your greatness. But when he does open up, as he did in a short video he recorded for the Vikings, the pain is very much on the surface. In the video, he talks about the time his black Pee Wee football team won the city championship—the team, remarkably, featured four future N. Even as a man who prides himself on inner strength, it is clear that being excluded as a nine-year-old because he was born black is a pain that is simply too severe to get over.
Whether or not anyone wants to talk about it, there are races attached to some positions in sports. Blood poured out and a rush ensued to get Hanson to the hospital, where he had emergency surgery.
Nine months later, Hanson said there are no aftereffects of the freakish injury, save the ugly looking scar running down his shin. The fourth-year punter said he reported to camp in the best shape of his life. He made the Pro Bowl in , averaging The Jaguars, meanwhile, never wavered in their beliefs. They gave him a raise and a contract extension in the offseason despite last year's episode. At the very least, the Jaguars might figure Hanson has played out his string of bad luck. The ax accident came 16 months after he, his wife and former Jaguars kicker Jaret Holmes were burned when they dropped a bubbling fondue pot during a get-together at Holmes' house.
Hanson suffered first- and second-degree burns. His wife, Kasey, suffered second- and third-degree burns and needed skin grafts. But I owe it to the doctors and the Jaguars for fixing me. It's behind me. It's something that happened that wasn't controllable and I'm happy it's over with now. Wire index.