GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s Johnny Townsend quipped on Tuesday that his family could one day be rivaling that of NFL punting brothers Dustin and Britton Colquitt.
Townsend, a second-team All-SEC selection by the conference’s coaches last year and a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, is leading that pursuit heading into his redshirt-junior season with the Gators.
Meanwhile, his younger brother Tommy, also a punter, left Tennessee to join Florida this summer and will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
“Sort of like the Colquitts,” Johnny Townsend said of having his brother following in his path. “That’s something we can try to start, a little punting legacy.”
Dustin Colquitt was drafted out of Tennessee in 2005 and has been the Kansas City Chiefs’ punter since then. Britton Colquitt followed his older brother at Tennessee and has been the Denver Broncos’ punter since 2010.
As for the the Gators’ punting brothers, they are now living together in Gainesville after Tommy Townsend spent his first collegiate season redshirting at Tennessee.
“I’m really excited that he’s here and so is he. He actually just moved into the house with me a couple weeks ago,” Johnny Townsend said. “He’s going to have a great career here. I’m excited for him.”
For now, though, it’s the elder Townsend’s job and it was a busier one last season than the Gators would have preferred.
His 83 punts last fall were 13 more than any other player in the SEC and 23 more than the third punter on that list.
Overall, he ranked fourth in the conference in yards per punt at 45.4, but Florida head coach Jim McElwain doesn’t feel that speaks to Townsend’s full value.
“I’ve said it. I think he arguably was one of the most valuable players on our team a year ago because of what he did by flipping the field with big kicks,” McElwain said. “Really, not being selfish to think about his average but pinning guys inside the 10. To force teams to go a long field, it’s because of what he did with his accuracy. He’s a real weapon.”
Townsend is on the official watch list for the Ray Guy Award heading into his third season (sandwiched around a redshirt year in 2014) and is a key reason McElwain feels especially confident this fall about his group of specialists.
With rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro being the highly promising yet unproven wildcard of that group, McElwain also talked about the stability of having sophomore long snapper Ryan Farr back for his second season and having Townsend’s steady hands holding for field goals and extra points.
Townsend’s work as a punter, though, is the most proven aspect of that unit.
“I’d say my biggest role is being one of the defense’s best friends,” Townsend said. “We shifted the momentum of games a lot last year. A perfect example was in the Florida-Georgia game last year when we had that punt that was muffed and we recovered it for a touchdown and also when we can force long fields for the opponents and allow them to try to work out of their own end zone. It’s tough for them.”
McElwain had a laugh at Townsend’s expense late last week while informing the media that his punter had injured his thumb catching football from the JUGS machine — a “JUGS altercation” as he put it.
Townsend played down the minor injury Tuesday and said his thumb was “pretty much 100 percent.”
All joking aside, though, it’s clear McElwain values the stability and production the Gators have at that position, even if the work of a punter often goes under the radar.
“Knowing that he has confidence in me gives me confidence,” Townsend said. “It’s nice to have that reinforcement.”
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.