Punter Daniel Sepulveda is becoming well-known to Pittsburgh Steelers fans as a solid performer on the field. His ability to pin the opposition inside the 20 is well-documented, and although he missed an entire season because of injury, Sepulveda returned in 2009 to put up numbers similar to his rookie campaign.
Sepulveda recently interviewed with 93.7 "The Fan" and engaged in a variety of topics.
The punter discussed coming back from the torn ACL injury that kept him sidelined during the entire 2008 season, and he proceeded to evaluate his performance last year.
"...My rookie year...kinda left a sour taste in my mouth because there were a couple different times where...there were balls that I hit that I wish I could have had back...obviously after missing that second year...going into this next year was really important for me to see some statistical increase, and it just didn't come.
"So, just from that perspective, I know I'm better than that, and it's going to happen. So I wasn't happy with it, but at the same time, it was solid...our inside the 20 we met our standards to some degree...so...it wasn't something to be totally upset about, but I know I'm better than that."
Good words from a punter who, in his rookie season, displayed talent and execution that left Pittsburgh missing his services dearly after his ACL injury required the Steelers to implement replacements for the 2008 season—replacements who could not adequately fulfill his role.
In college at Baylor, Sepulveda joined the team as a walk-on linebacker. He touched on his first encounters as a punter for Baylor—and how punting strategies initially overwhelmed him.
"...The first time I ever volunteered to punt at Baylor, they start talking to me about operation time, and hang time, and touch-to-toe, and all these measurements, and I'm just way in over my head...'Oh my gosh, I regret ever volunteering for this. I hope they pick the other guy. I don't even want to do this.' I've since gotten more comfortable with things, obviously."
The punter discussed learning methods for improving his game. Sepulveda said he does not necessarily benefit best by watching film; rather, he prefers to take the hands-on approach to mastering his skills.
"...People learn differently, and I'm not one who likes to watch myself doing something...I go more by feel, so if somebody is teaching me and telling me something that I'm doing, and then I turn around and feel the difference, I can really hone in on that feeling, the way that it feels differently—and that's the way I see the most progress.
"It can help to watch film to identify some of those things, but I'm more of a feel guy."
Sepulveda proceeded to discuss the art form of punting. For the casual fan, punting may seem to be the easiest position to master: Catch the ball and kick the ball. But to be successful, much more goes into it.
"It's best to take a small jab as soon as you catch the ball, so it's like a half step. Some people count it, some people don't...it's a small gathering step as you catch the ball, and then there's two steps after that, and you've got about 1.2 seconds or so from the moment you touch the ball to the point that it's kicked—so it's obviously pretty quick.
"Keeping the ball down is important. I think sometimes when I start to struggle a little bit, the ball gets up a little bit too high...I'm dropping it from too high, my hand raises up. Holding it more to the ground, closer to the ground is something that I, specifically, personally, need to pay a little more attention to...to be more successful.
"Ultimately, it just comes down to contact, and the reason it makes things a little bit harder in Pittsburgh is it gets colder, and it seems like it's always some kind of windy in Heinz Field. Although early in the season, there's some beautiful days, but towards the end, it gets cold and snowy and all that nonsense. It just gets more and more important to make good contact, and that happens when you keep the ball low.
"At the end of the day, if you're thinking about that stuff on game day, it's not going to be a good day. So once game day rolls around, it's just 'go out there and get the job done.'"
The Steelers have been interestingly active during the free agency period. Not only have they added old faces such as Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle El, but they also added depth players and kept their current roster intact for next season.
Sepulveda touched upon his own contract situation in relation to the lowest tender one-year contract the Steelers granted him.
"I'm really not upset because I want to be in Pittsburgh, anyway, so...I love it here, the city's grown on me with every day that I've spent here...I'm happy, but I understand at the same time the business side of things. So we'll see what happens."
Relating to the team adding players during free agency, Sepulveda said: "It kind of creates a competitive environment (one), and (two) kind of a sense of urgency a little bit, and I like it, I like the message it's sending...I think it's going to be good for the culture of the team."
Sepulveda is highly skilled punter with a linebacker background who possesses a fistful of athleticism. Now approaching his fourth year as a pro, Sepulveda spoke with a positive attitude—and Steelers fans will only grow to appreciate his skills as his experience and dedication grows.
If Pittsburgh fans truly appreciate the skills of a quality punter, then they will hope to see Sepulveda on fourth downs for years to come.
For more of the Sepulveda interview, and for his reaction to the Roethlisberger situation in Pittsburgh, visit 93.7 "The Fan" for the entire podcast.
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