KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The job description alone should scare away all but the most confident of souls.
Must be able to kick an awkwardly shaped ball at least 50 yards. Must generate enough hang-time to enable proper coverage. Must do it all in the midst of thousands of screaming fans, with half a dozen defenders bringing pressure and the game’s outcome hanging in the balance.
And the only time you’ll receive any attention is when you make a mistake, when you mishandle a snap or shank a punt or hit one right into the end zone instead of spiking it at the 5.
Yes, it’s a surprise anybody would be up for such a task.
Dustin Colquitt relishes it.
The veteran punter is arguably the Kansas City Chiefs’ most unsung star. He’s their inept offense’s best friend for his ability to flip field position in a single snap, and their defense’s secret weapon in pinning the opponent deep within its own territory.
“When you talk about field position, helping your team,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, “he definitely does that.”
Finally, he’s starting to get some attention for it.
Colquitt was one of five Chiefs players voted to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. He’ll be joined in Hawaii but better-known stars such as running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, all of whom have made it to the all-star game in the past.
This will be Colquitt’s first trip, though.
He’s certainly deserving of it.
In his seventh season out of Tennessee, the Chiefs’ punter has had the finest season of his career. He’s averaging 46.9 yards on 75 punts for a team that’s 2-13, doing his job superbly even while those around him have struggled to do much with the prime field position he’s created.
“That’s my job,” Colquitt said. “That’s my role and you have to be comfortable with that, regardless of what the offense or defense is doing. You have to be special.”
He’s been special at a record-setting pace, too. Colquitt has put 42 punts inside the 20 this season, which trails only Arizona’s Dave Zastudil (44) for the most in the NFL. It also matches the record going into this season, shared by Ben Graham, Andy Lee and Steve Weatherford.
But the Cardinals’ Zastudil has punted 106 times to break the record, while Colquitt has put an astonishing 56 percent of his kicks inside the opponent’s red zone.
“It’s awesome,” Colquitt said of perhaps setting the record for punts inside the 20. “It was cool setting the Kansas City Chiefs record and tying the NFL record, and it would mean a lot to me. My dad always told me, ‘If you do anything in football, be the defensive coordinator’s best friend.’ That’s how I’ve always looked at it.”
Colquitt’s father, Craig, should know. He won a pair of Super Bowl rings while punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1978-84. His uncle, Jimmy Colquitt, also appeared in a couple of games as a punter for the Seattle Seahawks during the 1985 season.
On Sunday, the first family of punters will have another reunion in Denver.
Colquitt will be punting for the Chiefs in the thin air of Sports Authority Field, while his younger brother Britton Colquitt will be hammering punts for the Broncos, who have a chance to earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a little help.
“We kind of play it off and say it doesn’t matter,” Dustin Colquitt said of the sibling rivalry, “but at the end of the day, you get on the plane or bus, it’s like, ‘Hey, let me see that stat sheet real quick.’”
Colquitt is in the final year of an $8.5 million, five-year deal with Kansas City, which makes his future a bit uncertain. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel could be out of jobs by Monday, so the chances of Colquitt signing an extension are slim at best.
He’s good enough that some wonder whether the Chiefs will take the rare step of franchising a punter. Otherwise, he could be a coveted special-teams player on the free-agent market.
Colquitt isn’t worried about that just yet. He’s played his entire career with the Chiefs, and would rather focus on finishing up another lost season with one more solid outing.
Even if few people ultimately notic.
“We want to win this game, leave a good taste in our mouth this offseason,” he said. “Denver’s already kind of set up with its postseason shot, so we have to put our minds to it, have a good game plan and execute it.”