WESTFIELD, Ind. — This time last year, Indianapolis Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez was an undrafted rookie free agent unearthed out of Hawaii by then-Colts special teams coordinator Tom McMahon.
Sanchez had an uphill battle ahead of him. Not only was he an undrafted rookie competing for a roster spot against a proven veteran in Jeff Locke, but either Sanchez or Locke was going to be replacing a prominent figure in Pat McAfee, who surprisingly retired last offseason.
McAfee was an All-Pro with the Colts who had a huge pop culture following as a football player, standup comedian, social media figure and most recently, part of online media outlet, Barstool Sports.
Long story short, Sanchez eventually won the Colts' punting job over Locke and also took over kickoff and kick holding duties.
Sanchez did so well as a rookie that he earned some national recognition. The PFWA made him their All-Rookie Team punter. Sanchez was also NFL.com’s punter on their All-Under 25 Team.
In 2017, Sanchez had the sixth-most punts in the NFL (84) with the fourth-highest net average (42.6). He also forced the second-most fair catches (27), which led to the fourth-fewest returned punts (19).
Overall, Sanchez allowed just 80 return yards on his punts, which was the second fewest in the NFL, and the 4.2 yards per return were tied for the fewest allowed. Sanchez also showed a strong leg on kickoffs, as 46 of his 70 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
So, how is Sanchez approaching a much different scenario this training camp as the team's sole punter?
"Last year was for sure different compared to this year. I was thrown in here and had no experience in the league whatsoever," Sanchez told Colts.com on Thursday.
"Having that year of experience under my belt, that definitely helps. But other than that, nothing really changes work ethic-wise. I mean, I work my butt off in the offseason the way I did the year before that. Nothing changes, but I have to keep my expectations high, keep working hard and keep progressing because that's what the league is about — getting better every day. I feel like all my teammates do that day in and day out, so I've got to keep doing that myself, too."
Even though Sanchez doesn't have the daunting task of winning a job over someone who's been there and done it before, the work doesn't stop.
The atmosphere around the Colts' locker room is to never stop working and to earn your spot everyday. That's the approach that Sanchez is taking.