Third time’s the charm: punter Tyler Sumpter embraces new role as starting kicker

Michael Shipma

Sports Editor

When redshirt freshman Tyler Sumpter came to Troy, he knew he was going to kick for the Trojans, but not quite like this.

If you’ve been paying attention to Troy football, you’ve noticed that there have been some changes made at the kicking position. Despite being third on the field goal kicker depth chart, Sumpter went from starting punter to also handling all the Trojans’ extra points and field goals.

His numbers aren’t bad, either, to say the least.

The 19-year-old from Hoover has yet to miss, making all 12 of his extra point attempts and all four of his field goal tries in three games.

It’s maybe not all that surprising, given that the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Sumpter punted, handled kickoffs and kicked field goals in his two years at Spain Park High School before coming to Troy.

The funny thing is, after Sumpter sat out in 2016 while redshirting, he was told by his coaches that he would need to focus solely on punting, while Bratcher Underwood assumed the kicking role.

However, with Underwood unable to kick field goals due to a back injury, and Underwood’s replacement making only one of five field goal attempts, Head Coach Neal Brown called on Sumpter to step up in a big way.

According to Sumpter, it was after Troy’s Oct. 11 loss at home to South Alabama that he got the news.

“I was excited,” Sumpter said. “I’ve always (kicked and punted) in high school, and coming from a soccer background, kicking was more of a natural thing for me than punting is.

“Punting is fun. I like being able to contribute to the team however I can, but scoring points is fun.”

For Special Teams Coordinator Jon Sumrall, Sumpter’s capability and success so far haven’t been all that surprising.

“We thought we’d give him a shot, and see if he could fill that role,” Sumrall said. “He’s done so, and  stepped up for us.”

It’s a role Sumpter said he’s been comfortable stepping into, and he has especially enjoyed seeing his contributions manifest themselves on the scoreboard.

“Being able to score points and give your team the edge is great,” he said.

He said it’s been fun to punt and kick, but it’s been difficult to physically prepare on the sidelines during games.

“It’s honestly been the most difficult part of this whole thing,” he said. “With punting, once we get past the 50-yard line, I’m pretty much done (warming up).

“Now, as soon as we get the ball on offense, I’m over on the sideline catching snaps from (long-snapper Preston Langham) getting ready to punt. But, as soon as we cross about the 40, I have to start transitioning into field goal.

“It’s a little wear and tear on my legs; you got to watch your rep count. You don’t want to just kick into the net all day. I’ve got it pretty much down at this point, but that’s probably been the most tasking thing.”

Sumrall has noticed Sumpter’s work, and credits the kicker’s success in part to his work ethic.

“You can tell he went right to work,” Sumrall said about Sumpter’s transition to his updated role. “You almost need to keep him from doing too much.”

It’s a transition Sumpter credited to his time as a redshirt. On the sidelines, he was able to watch how the starters handled their roles, while also working with the team’s strength and conditioning staff to improve his game.

“When I first got here, there were a lot of things in the weight room that they did that got me right and helped add distance and hang time with punting,” he said. “In camp, Coach Brown put me in a lot of pressure situations.

“When I was called upon and delivered, the team did a good job of encouraging me and making sure I knew they were behind me.”

In particular, Sumpter pointed out an instance where Brown helped to encourage him.

“I had my first shank of the year Thursday night on punt, but as soon as I came to the sideline, Coach Brown high-fived me and said, ‘Hey, we’re good, just go on to the next kick,’” Sumpter said.

He also recalled the encouragement in the form of texts from teammates, including from Troy’s top receiver.

“Deondre Douglas gave me a text saying, ‘Hey man, we’re proud of you, keep working hard. We need you.’ Stuff like that,” Sumpter said. “So the encouragement and support has been crazy.”

When asked if he’d rather run or throw if Brown called for a fake punt or field goal, Sumpter chuckled, saying he’d rather throw because he isn’t very fast. After a moment, though, he changed his mind.

“Actually, I played fullback in high school, so I might go with my legs,” Sumpter said. “I never played baseball — I only played soccer — so I’d probably want to run.”

Even if he just sticks to kicking the ball on Saturdays, Trojan fans can expect to see more of Sumpter this season and in the seasons to come.

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