Punting in the NFL probably seems pretty similar to punting in college. It is a particularly specialized skill, and although certain strategies may change, they are more from team to team rather than when advancing from one level of football to the next.
For Green Bay Packers punter JK Scott, the transition from college football at Alabama to spring practices with his NFL team doesn’t feel overwhelming. Speaking to reporters during the team’s minicamp last week, Scott talked about that transition, and said that it largely comes down to one big difference: “I think that the biggest difference between college and the NFL for me is there’s much more attention to detail on the little things,” Scott said. “I have the same goals as far as where I’m placing the ball now as I did ... (the goal now is) just to take it to that next level and be consistent.”
Scott is a player who chooses not to focus too heavily on a specific metric like hangtime when he does get the rare opportunity to truly let the ball fly in practices, however. Instead, he’s working on the little things so he is able to enjoy those opportunities: “In those reps that y’all don’t see, there’s a lot of drill work that we’re doing, there’s a lot of things that we’re focusing on to be consistent at my swing and at the approach.” When he has kicked in practice at Ray Nitschke Field, however, he’s having a good time. “When I’m out there on the field, I’m letting my leg swing and dropping the ball where I’m supposed to and having fun, and the results take care of themselves.”
That detailed work in closed practices comes under the watchful eye of special teams coordinator Ron Zook, who has made a great early impression on his young pupil. Scott says that he loves Zook and thinks he’s “an amazing coach,” adding that “I don’t say that just because I’m supposed to say that, I really mean it.” Specifically, Scott referred to Zook’s motivational skills and how he helps his players approach the game like a true professional.
While his on-field transition has seemingly gone smoothly, there have not been any notable hiccups off of it either. For one thing, making the transition from Alabama to Wisconsin was easy because of his family’s summer home in Hayward. Scott said he and his wife will even spending some time there after camp before returning to Alabama to visit her family. The Scott family often spent the entire summer in northwestern Wisconsin, and JK said that they would “spend pretty much all day on the lake, just swimming and fishing, spending all day relaxing.” For someone who grew up rooting for the Packers and rooted (at least partially) in Wisconsin, there’s no challenge there.
Even the Packers’ locker room has been a comfortable place for the rookie so far. “It’s honestly very similar to the way Alabama was, just the professionalism of the program,” he said. “It’s been pretty normal for me being here so far.”
Packers fans will hope that Scott’s smooth transition to this point will continue and lead to great success on the field. He will be the team’s fourth punter in four years, and he surely hopes to be wearing Green and Gold for a long time.