By Gray Gardner.
The players that form a team’s kicking and punting groups are usually overlooked in the grand scheme of a team’s functioning. The same is true with the Clemson football team thus far in fall camp, as the Tigers’ special teams unit is yet to get any attention from the media. That changed today as punter Dawson Zimmerman went on record to remind Tiger fans that he and the rest of the kicking crew are known as “specialists” for a reason.
My conversation with Dawson began with basic questions about the day’s practice, as most interviews generally do. But rather than expounding on specific details from practice, Zimmerman simply said that he was “trying to do work” and that “right now it’s going great.”
From there Zimmerman continued to give what seemed to be a how-to guide to punting.
“With punting it’s all about finding your inner calm and really just harnessing that,” Zimmerman said. He continued to say that it is really about “taking the spirit of a stallion and turning that into the spirit of a bear.”
Obviously this isn’t the information you would hear at a football instructional camp or from an ESPN analyst. This is true insider information from a real-life punting enthusiast.
Zimmerman continued, “Some people say that punting is just something where you drop the ball and kick it. But to me it’s something where the ball is actually like a hand grenade and I’m just sending it down the field, and our gunners detonate it.”
I certainly thought punting was something where you simply drop the ball and kick it. Boy was I wrong. But then I wondered, what happens when that “hand grenade” is “detonated”?
“(When it detonates), that is when we win ballgames because with every ballgame, there is the ability to win the ballgame.”
A truly well said statement. So exactly how many hand grenades is Zimmerman planning on detonating this fall? He said it all depends on the offense.
“Hopefully if our offense is as it should be…I won’t be punting that much. But if we do – then I’m ready. I’m ready to send some pain, send some rain, send some something else that rhymes with ‘ain.’”
Zimmerman knows the importance his position can play come game time and is taking fall camp to prepare for either situation, whether he’s punting 10 times a game or 2 times a game. He said that two intangibles give the Clemson specialists an edge over the competition: passion and zeal.
“You know passion and zeal, that’s something that’s a part of all specialists’ lives. We’re all zealous people. We’re all fired up,” Zimmerman said. “Spencer Benton – I don’t think there’s a more zealous person than Spencer Benton. Sometimes I actually just smell zeal coming from his locker. Richard too, Richard is a great kicker.”
Dawson continued: “Chandler Catanzaro, I can’t say enough about how Chandler has really improved and really gotten his mind ready. That actually displays itself when we go play ping-pong in the West End Zone. I used to be beating him 21-7 and now he’s really improved, his mental state is better and I’m beating him about 21 to 15.”
At that point it was time for Zimmerman to make his way back to the locker room, most likely to challenge Catanzaro to another game of table tennis. Needless to say, I was grateful for such an insightful interview.
Hopefully there will be more lessons and updates on the skill of punting from Dawson Zimmerman as the season continues.