Football

Wake Forest punter Alex Kinal has cult following

Wake Forest's Alex Kinal responds to questions during the ACC NCAA college football kickoff in Pinehurst,  Monday, July 20, 2015.
Wake Forest's Alex Kinal responds to questions during the ACC NCAA college football kickoff in Pinehurst, Monday, July 20, 2015. AP

Apparently kicking is cool, or at least Alex Kinal makes it look that way.

Kicking is what Kinal does for Wake Forest. Sure, the technical description is that he “punts” the ball, though that’s only when spoken with regards to the confines of American football. He didn’t grow up in his native Australia with dreams of being a punter, nor did he watch televised NFL replays with visions of punting glory. He wanted to be a kicker.

While growing up playing the Aussie version of the sport, it was a way of passing and scoring, though it always remained merely kicking Down Under. So Kinal kicks – period.

“That’s what we do,” Kinal said on Monday afternoon during the annual ACC Football Kickoff.

Wow, he’s so cool.

Should a punter be placed on the ACC’s Mount Rushmore of football greats, it will be Kinal if only for the cultural impact he’s had on the sport. After all, how many other punters – and, being in America, that’s what we’re going to call it – have a cult following rivaling Kinal’s?

There’s a fan-operated Twitter account proclaiming his overall greatness and a blogging site touting him as a legit Heisman Trophy candidate. It’s a compelling argument considering he was Wake Forest’s most lethal offensive weapon last season.

He punted his way to 3,535 yards while the Deacons accrued 2,595 yards of total offense. Ryan Plackemeier (2002-05/ was a first-team All-American, but – and no offense to the Deacons’ former punter – he wasn’t that critical to Wake Forest’s fortunes.

That’s what secured Kinal a seat in a Pinehurst Resort ballroom on Monday, a spot otherwise occupied for the likes of quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers. You know – the glamour positions.

Well, those were the so-called glamour jobs before Kinal landed in Winston-Salem four years ago.

The popular positions could be getting kicked, er, punted down the popularity hierarchy thanks to this guy with a right leg that has booted 10,838 yards (coincidentally, the distance between Winston-Salem and his home of Adelaide, South Australia is 10,277 miles). His 262 career punts are only 22 short of the ACC record set by Ryan Quiqley from 2008 through 2011.

Kinal needs 61 punts to break the NCAA mark cemented by Nick Harris of California 15 years ago. His spot in history seems assured considering his 81 punts last year were actually a career low. The last two guys who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter – each of whom also happened to be Australian – didn’t approach that kind of history.

“I really respect him,” senior linebacker Brandon Chubb said. “… He’s always working to make himself better. And not just as Alex Kinal the punter, but Alex Kinal the team captain.”

That’s respect from a hard-nosed player who will likely suit up on Sundaysin the NFL after this season. And it’s for a player who makes an otherwise nondescript position seem pretty cool whether he admits it or not.

“No, I’m here to win,” Kinal said. “I love playing football and I just want to win.”

The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/

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