Only a few punters get invitations to the NFL Combine. Since 2019, I have engaged many of them in conversations about how far they’d be able to punt various non-football objects.
The punters, from the 2019 class: Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky, Stanford’s Jake Bailey, and Rice’s Jack Fox. And from 2020: Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter, South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton, Florida’s Tommy Townsend, and Auburn’s Arryn Siposs.
The list of objects they ranked by puntability: a cabbage, hockey puck, ball of yarn, soccer ball, burrito, Hershey bar, balloon, actual football, laptop, feather, Kirby from Super Smash Bros. (as opposed to another version of Kirby, such as Kirby’s Adventure Kirby or Kirby’s Dream Land Kirby), knit cap, piece of paper, and loaf of bread. (They could decide whether the loaf was sliced or not.)
The players ranked the objects 1-14, with 1 being the object they could punt the farthest. There was general agreement on most objects, but some created less consensus. Stay tuned for player-by-player results in the dataset at the bottom of this page.
1. a football
The players were grateful to punt footballs and not other things on this list.
2. a soccer ball
“I played goalie, so some experience,” former soccer player and all-time football megapunter Mann said. “A little translation to football.”
The majority of punters interviewed played soccer at one time or another.
“I think just the different shape of a soccer ball probably gives you a little less distance, I would say, than a football,” Siposs said. “The shape of the ball gives you an advantage.”
3. Kirby from Super Smash Bros.
“If you’ve ever seen Smash Bros., when they get knocked off, he goes flying,” Fox – no relation to Nintendo’s Star Fox — explained. “I don’t know if he’s too dense.”
The thing about punting Kirby is that he can inflate himself several times and get extra loft as he’s soaring through the air. That adds to his puntability.
“This is all based upon how far you think Kirby’s actually gonna go if you smash him?” Bailey asked.
“I’ve played Smash Bros,” Fox replied, sitting next to Bailey. “I know how far he’s gonna go.”
There was some skepticism about Kirby’s flying distance, however.
“I feel like if I kicked him, he would kind of form around my leg,” Townsend said. “I feel like he would absorb too much.” I asked if Kirby’s ability to re-inflate himself and gain a second wind would change his view, but it did not.
4. a cabbage
“I feel like a cabbage would be really satisfying to kick,” Fox said. “I feel like it might fall apart a little bit. That would be my number one, like, if I had a satisfaction thing. I would love to break it, so it gets a higher grade from me.”
“Cabbage is definitely satisfying to punt,” Bailey agreed.
But, gentlemen, we’re not here to rank by satisfaction. We’re here to rank by distance.
5. a hockey puck
“Least satisfying might be hockey puck,” Bailey said, because it would hurt.
“You’re trying to hit it on [the top] of the foot, which is the harder part,” Siposs said. “So I feel like if you hit there and you’re able to hit there and have the puck nice and flat where you kick the ball, it should be able to go a little bit of distance.”
6. a ball of yarn
Some punters were concerned about the yarn unfurling on impact, which would certainly keep it from getting the flightpath of, say, a well-put-together cabbage.
7. a balloon, inflated with helium
There are two ways of looking at this debate:
- “The balloon is full of helium,” Fox said. “If you punt it, it’s gonna go up, and the wind’s gonna take it. It could take it like 15 miles that way.”
- “You would think an inflated balloon with helium would go far, but really, it doesn’t go that far. I’ve tried it,” Mann said. “It just kinda hangs in the air a long time. It doesn’t go really far. It’s very high every time ... It probably goes 10 yards. If I really get ahold of it, maybe 10 yards, because it’ll float down.”
Mann’s field-tested it, so he’s probably right.
8. a loaf of bread
“It depends if it’s burnt or if it’s a fresh, nice loaf of bread,” Townsend said. “If it’s just sandwich white bread, that’s just gonna fold, and I don’t think that’s gonna go anywhere. But if we’re talking like a burnt loaf, like ball of bread, just like some overcooked mountain bread, that might go somewhere.”
9. a burrito
“I would ask for a burrito that’s really tightly wrapped. And I think I could get that farther than a cabbage,” Bailey said.
“At Chipotle, it’s not tightly wrapped,” Fox retorted.
“I’m not basing it off of Chipotle, though,” Bailey countered. “I was just gonna go San Diego, nice burrito, that you ask for it to be tightly double-wrapped.”
Siposs felt he could manually wrap the burrito and give it some flight time.
“I feel like I make a good burrito, so I’d be able to keep it nice and compact. It should be able to go OK. Am I getting to make the burrito? Then good,” he said.
“It also depends if you double, triple, quadruple-wrap it,” Townsend added. “Just a single-wrapped burrito? I don’t think it’s going very far.”
10. a Hershey’s chocolate bar
Are you considered that punting a chocolate bar would make your cleats brown?
“Nothing a little water can’t fix,” said Charlton, who slotted the bar #8.
11. a knit cap
“A beanie or something?” Townsend asked.
12. a laptop
“I think I could get a laptop a good, probably, 15 yards at most from where I’m standing,” Bailey said.
“You can kick a laptop 15 yards?” Fox asked him.
“If I kick the heck out of it, probably,” Bailey told him. “I don’t know. Loaf of bread might go farther. It’s a tossup.”
13. a piece of paper
“A piece of paper you can crumble up, make it into, like, a ball,” Mann said. “You’ve gotta think aerodynamics here, you know?”
“I envision it as flat paper I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere,” Siposs said.
14. a feather
There was universal agreement that a feather is not a puntable entity.
The full data: Punters on how far they could punt objects, farthest to shortest
|a soccer ball||4||4||2||2||2||2||2||2||2.5||2|
|Kirby from Super Smash Bros.||2||2||3||3||3||4||4||3||3.0||3|
|a hockey puck||9||10||6||4||4||11||3||4||6.4||5|
|a ball of yarn||13||8||4||5||7||5||8||10||7.5||6|
|a balloon (inflated with helium)||1||1||12||11||5||9||11||11||7.6||7|
|a loaf of bread||8||7||5||7||11||10||9||6||7.9||8|
|a Hershey bar||10||9||8||9||10||8||7||9||8.8||10|
|a knit cap||11||12||10||8||6||7||12||12||9.8||11|
|a piece of paper||12||13||14||10||13||13||13||7||11.9||13|
Looking for more in the “specialists rank objects by how hard they’d be to do football things with” department?
Please see the other installment in this series: long snappers ranking objects by how well they could long-snap them.