"The Switch-Footed Punter Who Golfs" would make a great Matt Christopher title. Moravian's Tyler Thompson is no work of fiction. The senior has been the Greyhounds' full-time punter and kicker for the past two seasons. The football team shares him in the fall with the golf team. In addition to being the rare two-sports-in-the-same-season athlete, Thompson has another unique attribute: he is an ambidextrous punter and kicker.
"I played soccer growing up, and I could kick and kickoff with both feet," said Thompson. "I don't really have a dominant leg."
Still, it took lots of work to perfect punting equally well with both his left and right foot. The Greyhounds use rugby punts, which give Thompson a running start in the direction in which he is booting the ball. Being able to punt with his outside leg no matter which direction he is running is an added weapon that Thompson developed over time.
"It was a lot of trial and error my freshman year," said
Thompson. "I practiced it every day."
Thompson played baseball his first two years at Moravian, but a torn labrum ended his baseball career. He had always been an avid golfer and was persuaded to join the golf team by another former baseball player whose career was cut short by injury. Despite spending most of his time with the football team, Thompson has been a valuable addition to the golf team, earning co-captain honors this year.
"I understand that he was a football player here first," said
Greyhounds head golf coach Kevin Edwards. "We're happy to have him
on our team. He's very good leadership-wise."
There has not been a tug-of-war between Thompson's two head coaches. Edwards attended Moravian with head football coach Jeff Pukszyn. The two have a longstanding friendship and their constant communication has ensured that there will not be any disputes over Thompson's scheduling conflicts.
"It's a lot easier when you know the other coach," said Pukszyn of handling the schedule of a two-sport athlete. "I respect Kevin so much."
Pukszyn is in his second season as head coach of the Greyhounds but has been a coach in the program since 1999. He says this is the first instance he can recall of a football player also playing another varsity sport for the Greyhounds during the football season.
"Tyler puts a lot of time into his kicking and punting," said Pukszyn. "When he needs to go play golf, Kevin and I work it out so that Tyler can afford to help that team out."
The golf season is split into two parts: the fall and spring. Unfortunately, Thompson had to miss the first two rounds of the Empire 8 Conference tournament (the Greyhounds play golf in the E8). While he will still be able to play the final two rounds in the spring, he will not be eligible for a medal. Other than that, most of the Greyhounds' golf tournaments have been played during the week and Thompson has been able to play.
"He is a good addition to our team," said Edwards. "We are a young team, so it helps to have seniors to help them out."
On the football field, Thompson is an even bigger asset. With his ability to punt with either leg, as well as run when the opportunity presents itself, Thompson has been a game-changer for the Greyhounds. Pukszyn advises the officials before the game of Thompson's unusual punting style.
"It's pretty unique, and he's good with both legs," said Pukszyn. "He really helps us. He's a good athlete and he's manufactured a few first downs for us."
With the rugby-style punting, in which Thompson rolls out in the direction in which he's kicking, the coaches give him the green light to run the ball if he thinks he can make the first down. If an opponent is unprepared for his ambidexterity, Thompson will make them pay.
"The rugby style gives me a lot more opportunities to spread it out and a lot more field to work with," said Thompson. "Teams that don't scout will load up on one side [to try and block the punt]. Coach trusts me to run, and I haven't been stopped yet."
Thompson was a high school quarterback, and Moravian's coaching staff thought he would play in the Greyhounds secondary in addition to punting and kicking. They knew they had an athletic weapon on special teams. So far this season, Thompson has made six out of seven point after tries, missed his only field goal attempt and is averaging 37.5 yards per punt. Nine of his 39 punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line. He has also rushed for a first down in his only attempt.
"Running for a first down is such a thrill," said Thompson, who admitted that it is a greater thrill than sinking a long putt or chip shot on the golf course. "Nobody sees it coming, and you get your team a first down and give your offense another chance."
The parallels between playing golf and punting and kicking a football are evident. You are on an island, where every mistake you make is magnified. If Thompson shanks a punt, hooks a kick or slices a drive, he knows that all eyes will be on him. He relishes the challenges.
"I like when the spotlight's on me," said Thompson. "You know you can make a shot or a kick, you just need to put your head down, rely on muscle memory, and stay focused."
The senior is currently working in practice to teach his freshman backup how to punt with both legs. Once he graduates, the Greyhounds hope to maintain the strategic advantage of having an ambidextrous punter. One thing that will be hard to replace is Thompson's mental toughness. Whether he is on the golf course or the football field, he has shown an ability to stay focused and have a short memory of his mistakes, qualities that are just as vital for a golfer as they are for a punter/kicker.
"There are different aspects of both sports in terms of you only get one shot," said Pukszyn. "Tyler does a great job with his approach to that."
Thompson will punt and kick for the Greyhounds on Oct. 13 at home against Susquehanna, and will golf for the Greyhounds at the Muhlenberg Invitational on Oct. 15.
Under the lights: Randolph-Macon played its first night game at the newly remodeled Day Field on Friday, Oct. 5. The Yellow Jackets put on an impressive performance for the homecoming weekend crowd, trouncing Catholic, 45-12. The Cardinals were without starting quarterback Greg Cordivari. Randolph-Macon again used its balanced, time-consuming offensive attack, rushing for 205 yards, passing for 206 yards and controlling the ball for 36:14.
"It was a great experience," said head coach Pedro Arruza of the team's first night game. "It was an awesome, awesome atmosphere."
The Yellow Jackets practiced under the lights three days prior to the game. The players were amped up, as was the entire Randolph-Macon community.
"The players were really excited about," said Arruza. "There was a real positive buzz on campus."
Around the Mid-Atlantic Team of the Week: Christopher Newport once again gave Ferrum a stiff-arm, holding off the Panthers by one touchdown. The Captains were led by sophomore quarterback Marcus Morrast, who completed six of nine passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns in his first start of the season. Morrast, who replaced the injured Aaron Edwards, also rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Paul Dukes led the Captains' rushing attack with 132 yards and Markeese Stovall added 86 yards on the ground. Ferrum, down 38-17 early in the fourth quarter, rallied back to come within seven points, but the Captains held on for a 38-31 victory to retain the driver's seat in the USA South race. Tyler Brubaker put up 250 yards of offense (143 rushing, 107 receiving) in the losing effort. It was the third time in the last five meetings between these two programs that the game was decided by one score.
Number of the Week: 503. Rushing yards for Washington and Lee in the Generals' 45-28 homecoming win over Emory and Henry. The Generals set a new ODAC single-game rushing record. Quarterback Nick Lombardo led the way with 164 yards on 23 carries. Luke Heinsohn added 138 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries. Sasha Vandalov ran seven times for 85 yards and a score. Brett Murray added 59 yards and a touchdown. Luke Terna, Dillon Stanfield, and Austin Eisenhofer also contributed to the record-breaking performance.
Quick hits: Hampden-Sydney recovered from a two-game losing streak to hand Bridgewater its first loss of the season, 24-7. The Eagles were held to 89 yards on the ground. Kenny Fryman and Russ Leboff led the Tigers defense with eight tackles each...Guilford won its second contest of the season, equaling its win total from 2011. The Quakers defeated Shenandoah, 20-7, holding the Hornets to 206 yards of total offense. Reggie Bullard and Tyler Eller each notched two sacks...Averett won its first game of the year, scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat LaGrange, 14-7. Zachary Grkman had two interceptions and Anthony Terry returned a punt 75 yards for the game-winning score to lead the Cougars...Travis Felder rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead Maryville over Greensboro, 41-6.
Looking ahead: Gettysburg at Muhlenberg. This is the Mules' last chance to claw back into the Centennial Conference race. Gettysburg and Johns Hopkins remain the only undefeated teams in the conference. Will the Bullets be looking ahead to a short week and their showdown with the Blue Jays on Oct. 19? Or will the nation's fourth-ranked scoring defense send Muhlenberg to its second straight shutout loss?
What did I miss? Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me at @adamturer or firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy Week 7!