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Head of the class STC grad Kuhter shows leadership in final season at UNI

August 18, 2017
By Thorn Compton - T-R Assistant Sports Editor , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

CEDAR FALLS - At the start of his press conference during media day last week, University of Northern Iowa head football coach Mark Farley took some time to talk about the special teams, specifically about senior punter Sam Kuhter.

"Sam Kuhter is our punter and our holder on our specialists group, and he has been mentoring and coaching that whole group this whole time," Farley said to the media in attendance. "That is how we handle special teams, it is kind of a hand-me-down process that one group teaches the next and Sam leads that group. He is a tremendous punter."

After two years as the featured punter for the Panthers and two Missouri Valley Football Conference all-conference selections, Kuhter returns for his senior season as not only one of the premiere punters in the MVFC, but potentially one of the best in the FCS.

Article Photos

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • South Tama County graduate Sam Kuhter poses for a photograph during the Northern Iowa football team’s annual media day event at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Kuhter, a senior, is back for his senior year as the Panthers’ starting punter.

"Sam has kind of always been the one that is in the shadows of everything, but he can go out there and punt the ball 70 yards if he wants to," Farley said of his punter's potential.

Last season, Kuhter finished the year with a 40.4 yards-per-punt average, including a season-high five 50-yard-plus punts in the opener against Iowa State. He also had the third-best total punting yards for a season in UNI history in 2015, kicking for 3,203.

The South Tama County graduate said, given his past achievements, he has some high expectations for himself heading into his senior year.

"I am really shooting for the top five in the country," he said on the new turf at the UNI-Dome last week. "Coach (Farley) has been talking about that in meetings, and we want to be in the top five at every position. Whether it's an offensive lineman, whether it's a punter or kicker or a defensive back, as the team as a whole if we can get to the top five of our position then we are going to be a successful team."

Not only does Kuhter have high expectations for himself this season, as his head coach said he has taken a leadership role not only on the special teams but on the Panthers squad as a whole. When asked about being thrust into the leadership position, Kuhter said it was a natural progression coming into his senior year.

"It was just the result of last year, we kind of struggled game after game. Coach is preaching the four points, and a lot of that has to do with the special teams, you know the punting and kicking and kickoffs," the Toledo native said. "We all took it on ourselves, and me being the senior I kinda led those guys and we put in a lot of work this offseason to really change that around for this season."

While he shows leadership on the field, Kuhter also is known as both a vocal and physical leader in the weight room, where Farley said he is pushing even some of the linemen in lifting.

"You look at Sam's time on the field, but what you don't know is he may be pound-for-pound the strongest player on this football team," Farley said. "When guys walk in they say 'that's your punter?' and I go 'yeah, that's the punter.' That's the standard right there, he may be pound-for-pound our strongest guy in that room."

Kuhter said he takes pride in his work in the weight room, and he credits the other guys around him for making him strive to reach higher goals.

"Everyone in there is working hard, and everybody says punters aren't supposed to be strong but I don't really believe that," he said. "Being an athlete in high school, I never saw anything wrong with being strong and I see guys around me putting up big weight and I think 'why can't I do that?' so I just keep stacking on and see how high I can go."

With the leadership on special teams falling on him, Kuhter said he tries to keep things relatively stress-free, considering the nerve-wracking nature of the job.

"We are kind of laid back, it is a pretty stressful job with the pressure of kicking and punting, so I try to keep it as laid back as possible but when we go to work we go to work," Kuhter said. "We get serious, and those guys know when we go to work it is time to get serious and when we want to put that work in they are ready to go."

Kuhter is also the holder on field goals, and with three players vying for them place kicking spot, he said his laid back approach really helps to keep their competition solely on the field.

"We all get along really well, the three kickers we have are very competitive, and when we are on the field practicing they are very competitive but off the field they are helping each other with steps and the stroke of their kicks," he said.

His ability to keep the kickers calm and work with them, whether they are left- or right-footed kickers, is yet another reason Farley said Kuhter is an asset to UNI football.

"Just go out and try to catch a snap from the left side when you're a right-handed person, that takes a skill set," Farley said. "He makes it look like it's easy, that takes practice. You don't just go out and do that kind of stuff."



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