Nov 9, 2021 - Sports

The man with the golden leg

Illustration of a trophy made of just a golden leg.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

San Diego State's Matt Araiza may be the most valuable player in college football — as a punter.

By the numbers: Araiza is on pace to smash — or already has smashed — numerous records in his first season as the Aztecs' punter.

  • Yards per punt: The record is 51, and he's at 51.9 on 56 punts.
  • 50- and 60-yard punts: The record for 50-yarders is 32; he has 30. The record for 60-yarders was 13; he has 15.
  • Wild stat: Araiza has as many 80-yard punts this season (two) as all NFL punters have had in the past decade. Watch his 86-yarder.

Of note: It's not just distance. His 29 punts downed inside the 20-yard line are tied for the most in the nation, which lets San Diego State's third-ranked defense go to work.

The big picture: Did we mention Araiza is also the kicker for the 8-1 Aztecs? The junior is one of four FBS players to handle all kicking duties (punting, field goals, kickoffs), and excels at all three.

  • Only one player has hit more 50-yard FGs than Araiza's three, he's a perfect 30-30 on PATs and his 64.4 yards per kickoff ranks in the top 10.
  • Punting is clearly his calling, though, and the discipline he'll almost certainly specialize in at the next level.

Looking ahead: The last time a punter was picked as high as the second round was 1995. Could Araiza challenge that?

Go deeper: The punter that was promised has arrived (The Ringer)

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