Nation's Biggest Legs Look Forward to Pro Careers
In the vernacular of the game, they're called specialists. But the term really didn't apply to either Chas Henry or Alex Henery.
Both showed remarkable versatility as seniors in college.
Though Henry won the Ray Guy Award given to the country's top punter and was a consensus first-team all-America selection, he considers a game-winning field goal to beat Georgia in overtime as a personal highlight.
Will Hill appeared headed for the game-winning touchdown on an interception return but stepped out of bounds on the four-yard line. The Gators didn't move the ball and had to call upon Henry, who had missed three field goals in narrow losses to LSU and Mississippi State while filling in for injured kicker Caleb Sturgis.
He nailed the 37-yarder to deliver what coach Urban Meyer turned "the biggest win we've had" in his tenure at Florida. It was the first final-play game-winner for the Gators since 1989 in the first overtime game in the 95-year history of the storied rivalry with the Bulldogs.
"It was one of the greatest moments I've had in my career," Henry said. "We had lost to Mississippi State, our homecoming game, and that really hurt our spirits. But coming out and winning the next week in a big rivalry game, on the road, at Jacksonville, the stands were split 50-50.
"We thought we had won with Hill's interception, but once we got the ball we knew we were going to win the game. It was great lesson in life of how to persevere and go through."
Nebraska's Henery is regarded a top NFL prospect because of his prolific career as a kicker but he was also a productive punter for the Cornhuskers. A first-team all-America kicker, he was a second-team all-Big 12 punter.
Henery made 18-of-19 field goal attempts during the regular season, 10 of at least 40 yards, and had his third straight year with at least 100 points (107). In his career, he made 89.5 percent of his field goal attempts and 193 of 194 PATs, setting NCAA records for both.
He also averaged 43.2 yards per punt, with 17 of at least 50 yards, and placed 26 inside the 20-yard line.
"It's tough to get drafted as a kicker so I'll be happy if I get drafted, we'll see what happens," said Henery. "I'm a low-key guy and I don't build up a situation over others, whether it's a 57-yarder or an extra point, I have the same approach."
Florida's Henry said he actually feels more pressure in his primary role as a punter than when lining up for a field goal.
"But I do feel a little more pressure punting than when I kick a field goal," he said. "That isn't really my position, so I just try to do the best I can, so I don't put that much pressure on myself that way. Whereas punting, that's what I'm here to do, that's my thing, try to do it to the best of my ability and hopefully that's pretty good.
Henry had two of the 10 longest punts in Florida history this past season, a 75-yarder against Alabama and a 67-yarder against Mississippi State. As a place-kicker, he was 7-of-11 with a long of 47 yards in the Outback Bowl.
His versatility -- he also can serve as a kickoff specialist and a holder for field-goal attempts -- could serve him well as he embarks on an NFL career.
"It's how you make your living," Henry said. "You have to go in each day and know that your job is on the line each day. Whereas in college, you sign a scholarship for four years and you're there for four years, no matter how you do each game, it doesn't really matter. Here your first practice could be a bad day and that could be the end of your career. So that keeps you on your toes and makes you better each day."
Henry knows punters sometimes have a long wait on draft day and often have to start their careers as free agents.
"The last 10 years they've gone anywhere from third round to undrafted," he said. "And there's guys who were free agents who are still in the NFL. So it's a waiting game, and you hope your name is called and you get to join a great organization."
BREAKING DOWN THE 2011 NFL DRAFT'S TOP KICKERS AND PUNTERS
It usually takes transcendent talent or performance to earn a high draft pick as a kicker or punter and in the absence of those kinds of prospects, there are a number of players that could stick in the NFL. Among the top kickers are Henery, Kai Forbath of UCLA and Josh Jasper of LSU. Following Henry on the list of top punters are Ryan Donahue of Iowa, Reid Forrest of Washington State and Matt Bosher of Miami (Fla.).
THE LAST FIVE
The last five kickers and punters drafted by the Colts
2009: Pat McAfee, P, seventh round, West Virginia
2005: Dave Rayner, K, sixth round, Michigan State
2004: David Kimball, K, seventh round, Penn State
1999: Hunter Smith, P, seventh round, Notre Dame
1988: Tim Vesling, K, 12th round, Syracuse
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 10 kickers and punters that could be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft . . .
Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State
Matt Bosher, P, Miami (Fla.)
Ryan Donahue, P, Iowa
Reid Forrest, P, Washington State
Trevor Hankins, P, Arizona State
Alex Henery, K, Nebraska
Chas Henry, P, Florida
Josh Jasper, K, LSU
Jake Rogers, K, Cincinnati
Thomas Weber, K, Arizona State
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.