I woke up on February 1st, 2017, to my phone blowing up. I was told that the best punter in the NFL, Pat McAfee, had retired at the age of 29. Of course I was hesitant to believe that my second favorite athlete in the history of Indiana sports behind the greatest quarterback of all time had retired, until I saw this:
Dear Indiana, pic.twitter.com/FJISS001J3
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 2, 2017
I was dumbfounded.
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McAfee retired for multiple reasons, one of which was his knees. Coming off of a third knee surgery in four years is rightfully exhausting to body and mind. The main catalyst for his retirement was his love for comedy. McAfee is now a part of the sports blog Barstool Sports, and is pursuing his dream of being a comedian. He is probably the most popular current athlete among Indiana sports fans. McAfee is indeed hilarious; I would strongly recommend checking out his work if you have not.
McAfee was the best punter in the NFL. Although snubbed from the AP All Pro team in 2016, he made pro football focus’s all pro team. In 2016, McAfee ranked first in the NFL with 49.3 yards per punt, third with 42.7 net yards per punt, 19 punts inside the 20, no touchdowns given up, and a career high 74 yard punt. That list does not even mention his incredible play as the Colts’ kickoff specialist.
Replacing McAfee in 2017 will be either former Vikings punter Jeff Locke, or UDFA Rigoberto Sanchez out of Hawaii.
The established Locke is the favorite to take the starting job for punter right away, but Sanchez may well be the kickoff specialist week one. Colts’ special teams coach Tom McMahon said of Sanchez that he expects him to be “a combo punt-kickoff specialist immediately”. Sanchez also kicked field goals in college, which could mean that he will be the replacement to 44 year old kicker Adam Vinatieri, who (probably) cannot kick forever. We could very well see Sanchez playing a major role for the Colts in 2017; the competition between him and Locke will be one to keep an eye on.
All of this being said, how much will the Colts miss Pat McAfee? A whole lot.
The Colts lose a guaranteed touchback on every single kickoff, and this young, improving defense loses the incredible field position that McAfee provides. I presume the special teams will struggle this season for the Colts, unless Locke or Sanchez step up in a big way. Special teams is one of the most underrated facets of football; it can be the deciding factor between and a loss.
I wish Pat McAfee the best in his future endeavors.