Senior punter Josh Hubner’s time at ASU has been a constant search.
Like a Buddhist monk searching for ultimate Nirvana, Hubner has been looking for his ultimate kick.
Hubner’s first appearance on the field was both a blessing and a curse at the same time. During ASU’s season opener against UC Davis last season, he fired off the greatest punt of his career and achieved his Nirvana.
“The first punt I ever kicked in here was pretty awesome,” Hubner said. “I just remember being so fired up after kicking the first punt.”
But it was a curse because ever since the ball left his foot, he was hooked. He became addicted to that feeling and has spent his entire ASU career trying to find it again.
“Ever since that day, I have been trying to get back to being able to kick that punt,” Hubner said.
Going into his senior year Hubner wanted that feeling again. Even though he may not have found the ultimate kick again, he may have found the ultimate season.
His senior season so far has consisted of 43 punts for 2,038 yards. His longest was 73 yards and 16 punts have pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line.
Those numbers are staggering. What has been most notable is Hubner’s consistency this season. He averages just over 47.4 yards a punt, good enough for No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 2 in the entire FBS.
No. 47’s 47-yard average is not coincidence.
“My biggest thing last year was my inconsistency,” Hubner said. “I feel I worked real hard this off-season trying to stay consistent and trying to make sure I hang the ball up there, and make sure the coverage team to cover the punt.”
His average and consistency has gotten some attention. He was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s best punter.
That is not enough for Hubner.
“I’m trying to get to No. 1,” Hubner said. “My goal is to be at the top of the nation at the end of this year.”
During their one season together, coach Todd Graham has taken notice of what Hubner has been doing. He described his punter as a weapon.
“Our punter is absolutely exceptional,” Graham said. “No question in my mind he is the best punter in the country … he’s been a weapon for us. I’m really proud of Josh and how he has performed.”
Hubner is a great weapon to have in any coach’s arsenal. He pins offenses back in the shadow of their own goal posts with a long road of green ahead of them.
It has tremendously helped out the defense. Hubner’s punting has often helped the team win the field position battle and led to ASU being the No. 3 defense in yards-against.
He may have the approval of the coaches, but he will never satisfy himself.
“I’m my own worst critic,” Hubner said. “(The coaches) say that, and my motivation will be, okay, go out and get better, go out and impress (them) even more. I’m glad that I’ve definitely stepped up and the coaching staff has had nothing but good things to say, but for me, it’s about coming out here every day and getting better.”
If Hubner cannot relive his first kick again during his college career, he may have chance to do it in a professional uniform.
Hubner said he is focusing on the season at hand and trying to get the Sun Devils into a bowl game, but he admittedly said he has given punting professionally some thought this season.
He has shown he has an NFL-ready leg. He said there’s one aspect of the punting game that is more important at the next level.
“A lot of the guys in the NFL that I have talked to tell me the big difference (from the professional level) is speed and getting that ball off,” Hubner said. “So, I think a lot of it is going to be concentrating on becoming so consistent at getting the ball off at a certain amount of time that you’re never going to get a punt blocked.”
Senior Day, the last game any of the seniors will play at Sun Devil Stadium, always brings a ton of emotion. Hubner said he is an introverted type of guy when it comes to those moments.
But after talking to some former players, he said some feeling might come up Saturday.
“I’m not much of an emotional guy,” Hubner said. “I kind of keep that stuff bottled up but I think it’s going to be pretty hard for me to say goodbye.”
Hubner had a lot of emotion and adrenaline during his first game at Sun Devil Stadium which led to his incredible kick. With the emotions that come on Senior Day, maybe he can reach that feeling once again and end his time at Sun Devil Stadium the same way he came in — with the ultimate kick.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org