Matt Araiza punting his way into the NCAA history books

Matt+Araiza+setting+up+for+a+punt.

Derrick Tuskan/SDSU Athletics

Matt Araiza setting up for a punt (Photo courtesy of Derrick Tuskan/SDSU Athletics).

by Marco Perez, Senior Staff Writer

Since 2013, there have been two punts in the NFL that have traveled more than 80 yards. 

In a span of two weeks, San Diego State’s punter Matt Araiza tied that stat. He had a punt of 86 yards against San Jose State and an 81-yard punt against Air Force. His punt against Air Force — from his own end zone — traveled 84 yards in the air from where he was standing.

Think about that; his punt traveled 84 yards in the air. 

The ball sailed well over the head of the Air Force punt returner and landed on the Air Force 18-yard line before coming to rest and downed at the Air Force 12-yard line.

Araiza’s performance against Air Force earned him the Gorilla Glue Toughest Player on Planet Earth for the week courtesy of the well renowned Rich Eisen Show. 

“That one was 75 in the air from the line of scrimmage, and I believe 84 from where I was standing,” Araiza said, during his appearance on the Rich Eisen Show.

Junior Matt Araiza is on pace to have the best season ever by a collegiate punter and doing so in his first season as the team’s full-time punter and while handling kick-off and place-kicking duties. He is one of only four players in FBS to do all three for their teams.

He leads all FBS schools with a 51.95-yard average punt in 56 punt attempts (the record for a season is 51.0 set by Braden Mann in 2018). Through nine games this season he has 15 punts of over 60 yards, an NCAA record, and 30 punts of over 50 yards, two off the NCAA record.

Araiza is the first player ever to have a punt of over 80 yards and a field goal of over 50-yards in the same game, and he did that in back-to-back weeks. 

“The kicking game and some of the things that Matt (does), let’s call it like it is, is pretty astonishing when you kick a ball 80 plus yards in the air. You don’t see that kind of change of field position very often,” head coach Brady Hoke said of Araiza. “He’s the MVP as far as I’m concerned right now with how he’s played and what he’s done.”

Kickers and punters are often not given the same recognition and respect given to the skill players on the team. On this team, however, Araiza has proven to be just as important as any other player on the team and hopes to help special team players across the country gain more recognition.

“There’s definitely a lot of position bias,” Araiza said. “In terms of the amount of scholarships specialists get, it’s less than every other position on the field. We’re usually last picked for a lot of things. Being a part of maybe pushing that narrative that kickers and punters can be as important as anyone else on the field, that’s huge to me.”

The play of Araiza this year has led to him receiving national recognition. He was recently named to ESPN’s midseason All-America team.

Former NFL players have taken notice, most notably former Indianapolis Colts punter and radio show host Pat McAfee. He tweeted out Araiza’s punt against Air Force with a caption that read: “An absolute PISS MISSILE from Araiza.. this dude is a STALLION #ForTheBrand”

“That was pretty cool,” Araiza said on being mentioned by McAfee. “All that stuff makes me laugh. A lot of people are really creative on Twitter, especially some of the adjectives he used.”

Araiza credits his success to his off-season program and the work he has put in with his coaches and said he didn’t attend many kicking camps in high school or while being at SDSU.

The Aztec football team has at least four games left this season, as they have already passed the threshold to become bowl game eligible. They hope to have a fifth game and be able to play for the Mountain West Conference Championship. 

That gives Araiza plenty of games to punt his way into the NCAA record books as the best punter in collegiate history. 

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