Welcome, everyone, to the weekly One Foot Down listicle! Each week on Friday, Pat Rick and I will alternate providing for you all a listicle of the greatest/top/best Notre Dame Fighting Irish-related things we can think of. They might be more serious, but mostly they will probably be wacky (what else would you honestly expect from the two of us?). We are AMPED to provide these for you each week. For the first one, we are kicking it off with some unsung heroes on the football field: punters (haha get it? kicking off? like punting?).
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Punters are guys on the football field that many fans do not think about much, until they are desparately needed. They can flip field position just like that while also giving teams an advantage on defense and then consequently on offense. On top of all that, you generally see punters as being pretty cool and genuine dudes. We are huge fans of punters here at OFD. So, buckle up as we break down for you the Top 5 punters in Notre Dame Football history.
#5 DJ Fitzpatrick
This list is actually in ascending order of the number of punts each player had for the program since the mid 90s. DJ Fitzpatrick was the kicker and punter extraordinaire for the Ty and early Weis eras. He was pretty nondescript, but especially in those Ty years there seemed to be a lot of punts. DJ has 166 punts in his career, averaging 40 yards per punt. People might remember him more from field goal kicking lore (especially against Navy in 2003). He was just a solid punter and kicker for the Irish.
#4 Hunter Smith (aka Hunter the Punter)
Hunter The Punter Smith had great punting numbers during his time in an Irish uniform. From 1995-98, he averaged just over 41 yards per punt on 174 punts. He is also on this list for his very long and prolific NFL career. He was drafted by the Colts in the 7th round of the 1999 draft and played in the NFL for 12 seasons, his last came not in Indianapolis but in Washington DC for the now Football Team.
#3 Ben Turk
Mr. Ben Turk clocks in at #3 both on our list and the list of number of punts for Notre Dame players. His 2009-12 career led him to punt the ball exactly 200 times. He was also just a solid player, averaging 39.5 yards per punt. Especially in that last Weis year and early BK years, we needed some good punting, and we got it. Another punter where we really have no complaints about him.
#2 Joey Hildbold
My man Joey Hildbold. Talk about 5 foot nothing, 100 and nothing. But man did Joey punt well. He has 202 punts to his name and even an 100% pass completion percentage. Ok, so he was 1-for-1 all time for 12 yards, but that is one more pass completion than most punters will ever have. He is also a Greene Family favorite as he broke the player walk line to hug his parents back in 2002. My parents and I were standing right by his parents, and they were beaming with pride at their son having a breakout and fun senior season. It was awesome.
#1 Tyler Newsome
The man, the myth, the mullet. Tyler would be number one even if he didn’t have the most punts (225) of the last 25 years. The dude exudes swagger. We have long since been enormous fans of his hair and personality here at OFD. But Tyler backed up that swagger with his punts. He was just dynamite for the Irish in the back half of the 2010s. He averaged 44 yards per punt, which is fantastic. He was a monster, and he was also well respected on the team. Newsome was named a captain for his senior season in 2018. He will always and forever be a legend.