INDIANAPOLIS — On May 4, the Indianapolis Colts signed an undrafted rookie punter out of the University of Hawaii.
That punter, Rigoberto Sanchez, was brought in to add competition for Jeff Locke, who was signed by the Colts as a free agent a couple months prior as the assumed replacement for All-Pro punter Pat McAfee, who had retired following the 2016 season in the prime of his career to pursue an opportunity with Barstool Sports.
But by the end of training camp, the Colts had seen enough: Sanchez, and not the veteran Locke, would be their punter and kickoff specialist heading into the 2017 season.
It didn't take long for the team to realize it had made the right decision. In his first-career NFL game Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, Sanchez booted six punts for a 50.3-yard average (47.8 net average) and had two punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
And after completing a terrific first year in the NFL, Sanchez on Tuesday was rewarded for his efforts, as he was named to the 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Sanchez in 2017 finished with 84 punts for 3,764 yards and a 44.8 average, with a net average of 42.6 yards, ranking fourth in the NFL. He also added 28 kicks pinned inside the opponents' 20-yard line and contributed 46 touchbacks on kickoffs.
In the process, Sanchez set franchise rookie records for total punts (84) and punt yards (3,764) and, after one season, ranks third in highest punting average (44.8) in team history.
His 65.7 kickoff touchback percentage ranked seventh in the NFL, while he was a huge contributor to the Colts' special teams units ranking third in the league in both kickoff return coverage (19.2 yards per return) and punt return average (4.2). Indianapolis only allowed 80 yards on punt returns this season, which was the second-fewest in the NFL.
Sanchez becomes the 50th member in Colts franchise history to earn PFWA All-Rookie honors, and is the first since tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver/returner T.Y. Hilton in the 2012 season. He's the first Colts punter to earn the distinction since McAfee in 2009 (and just the fourth overall, joining Rohn Stark in 1982, Hunter Smith in 1999 and McAfee).