Punters don’t typically get standing ovations. Punting, objectively, is a by-product of a football team’s offense not scoring.
But in Iowa City, punting is winning. Hawkeyes punter Tory Taylor has created a culture of punting appreciation with his play on the field. In Iowa’s win over Illinois, Taylor became the team’s all-time leader in punts (274) and punting yards (12,647).
Taylor earned Big Ten special teams player of the week for his performance, punting eight times for 413 yards. It was his sixth career nomination for the award, and third in the 2023 season.
Countless fans across Iowa City and beyond wear Tory Taylor themed merchandise. The most common are the “I cheer for the punter” and “Punting is winning” RAYGUN shirts. I asked fans around Kinnick Stadium on Saturday whether they thought punting was winning.
“Definitely at Iowa,” Condra Allred said. “Where you don’t score a lot of points you’ve got to punt the ball.”
“With our offensive struggles from time to time you have to take advantage of these things,” Lee Reighard said. “In this case it’s the ability to change field position.”
“First and foremost, I really just appreciate everyone’s support,” Taylor said of the love he’s gotten from Hawkeye fans. “The fans have rallied around me since I got here and it certainly helps if you can get on their good side.”
Taylor isn’t your typical student-athlete. He’s Australian, he’s 26 years old and one of the most popular players on the team.
“My favorite part is when we announce the starters and they say his name and everyone goes berserk for him,” Iowa receiver Nico Ragaini said.
“And I’m in that fan club too, just so you know that,” Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Plus he’s got the advantage of being Australian, too, so he’s got the accent and he’s just a really likable person, I really like him when he punts the ball really well.”
“Obviously, we don’t want to go three and out but when we do it, he’s able to put our defense in a good position, which ends up giving us better position as well,” Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill said.
Taylor’s a semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the best punter in the country.
“If we sit back and watch, we’re watching one of the all-time great players at the position,” Hawkeyes Special Teams Coordinator LeVar Woods said. “It’s fun to watch.”
“I really just hope I’ve kind of shown people that punting does matter,” Taylor said. “Special teams does matter, ’cause it kind of goes a long way to winning football games.”
Taylor can’t benefit from NIL — it’s a technicality because he’s not a U.S. citizen — but rather than punt on the opportunity all together, he partnered with RAYGUN to create a best-selling t-shirt.
50% of the proceeds go to the Count The Kicks campaign, an organization dedicated to reducing stillbirths and raising awareness to babies’ movement during the final trimester of pregnancy.
“It’s all about improving the world and making a change,” Taylor said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a t-shirt out there that’s doing a little bit of that.”
“I think that tells a little bit about the kid too, just how he’s wired and how he was raised,” Ferentz said. “He’s got a great family.”
On Taylor’s senior day, his father Stuart made the 10,000-mile trip all the way from Melbourne to Iowa City to see his son play in his final home game.
“It was such a long journey for him and such a long journey for us, but thankfully we’ve got some really good people around here in Iowa,” Stuart said.