In the past few years, punters and kickers have had a renaissance, with former Colts All-Pro Pat MacAfee at the helm.
MacAfee, who is unofficially retired from football, has become a media personality over the past few years. With the Pat MacAfee Show, broadcasting in the NFL and XFL, and guest appearances on national television, his influence has spread plenty far. With his focus on representing his brand, the catchphrase “For The Brand” has caught fire.
For The Brand can be interpreted as someone doing something to better their reputation. MacAfee wanted to break the stereotypes of kickers, punters, and long snappers being of little to no value and not being actual football players.
The XFL perfectly represents everything Pat MacAfee is about. Straight to the point, fast, fun, and mainly exciting. While the league’s efforts to eliminate point-after attempts and touchbacks has been viewed to hurt special teams, there are some ways it actually benefits it. The new rules have cut out all the fluff in football that’s hurt the game.
When a punter takes the field in the XFL, there are a few outcomes, and none of them have the ball being placed at the 25-yard line like it’s the NFL. The punting team cannot release past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. If the ball goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line or lands in or out of the end zone it is considered a major touchback, resulting in the ball being spotted at the 35-yard line. These rules give reason to punt less, but field more.
Under the new rules, a star has been born in Marquette King. King, a former Oakland Raider, and Denver Bronco is the rocket leg behind the St. Louis BattleHawks red hot squad. The following punt went viral recently.
.@MarquetteKing just had…maybe the greatest punt ever?*
*It ended up being a touchback 😔 pic.twitter.com/KDeocnuEeo
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 10, 2020
While it ended up being a touchback due to the fault of King’s teammate, the fact a punt went viral in week one of the XFL is astonishing. Marquette is known for his theatrics and swagger, and even though it was looked down upon in the NFL, the XFL seems to be a perfect fit for him. A flashy smooth-talking punter is what the XFL is all about.
DC Defenders kicker Ty Rausa missed a field goal and was immediately interviewed on the sideline. Rausa was visibly upset giving fans a rare insight into the hardships players face. The mentioned play is found below.
The Defenders missed a field goal that would have tied the game.
— ESPN (@espn) February 8, 2020
Rausa then went on to nail a 54-yard field goal. While the feel-good story can be the main take away, what should be mentioned is the fact punters and kickers are being put on a national spotlight for the first time ever. These players are only recognized when they screw up, or after doing something at a record-breaking level. For the first time in the history of football special teams players are making an impact beyond the field of play. And if this were to happen in any other league it might be bad for business. But the XFL has no issue providing an opportunity to all players.
Maybe in a few years, fans could be wearing jerseys of their favorite kicker or punter instead of running back.
Gavin Hayes is a sports writer and photographer. His past work includes working for Amazin’ Prospects covering the New York Mets minor league system, and formally covered the New York Jets and AFC East for Fan Source Network and Prime Time Sports Talk. He now joins the XFL Board staff with intentions to cover the New York Guardians and general XFL news. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , or Twitter/Instagram direct message. Business inquires only, please.