by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

While most football coaches preach the importance of special teams, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer practices for success. Hokies punter Brent Bowden reaped the rewards, earning All-ACC honors and an invite to the NFL combine.

Bowden was just about to hop on a flight when PD caught up with him. He took the time to discuss the imperfect art of punting, the combine from a special-team perspective, and an upcoming meeting with a certain NFL club.

So, where are you headed today?

I’m headed to Tampa. My kicking coach goes on vacation to Tampa for the whole month of March every year, so I’m just going down there to work with him.

Now, in terms of your kicking, what was your combine experience like? It seems like a punter might have a different experience than most other players.

Oh, man. It was definitely cool. It was cool to be there. It’s only a one-time thing that you ever get to do in your life, so, I mean, I had a blast even though it was kind of long and a little grueling with the schedule. But, overall, my experience was pretty much the same as the other positions, other than the fact that we didn’t have to do the 40s and all that stuff if we didn’t want to. But it was great, just meeting new people and getting to talk to all the teams and stuff, getting, like, a real taste of the NFL.

What teams did you talk to?

The main teams I talked to were the Patriots, the Packers, Jacksonville, Miami, Denver, the Giants and the Browns.

All right, I’m intrigued. What was the meeting with the Patriots like?

Oh, you know, it was just a general interview with Coach (Scott) O’Brien. I talked to him – well, first it was just like a general interview, and the second time was to set up an individual workout with him. He actually called me the other day to finalize a workout, told me he thought I did a good job at the combine, so it was good to hear that from him.

And during the workout – you don’t have to get specific if you don’t want to – but what were the types of things that he had you do?

Well, the individual workout with him is coming up in the next couple of weeks, but for the combine, it was just 14 punts. Eight of them were just regular field punts. We could do whatever with them: go down the middle, right, left. I just did right, left, because that’s what the NFL does. And then the last six were just pooch punts, going right and going left.

How do you think you did?

I think I did good, but not what I know I can do. I’m kind of itching to go out and go kick again because I know I didn’t do as well as I was hoping. It was good enough, I think.

When you’re punting, what’s uppermost on your mind during a game – or does it change depending on the situation?

Oh, man. See, what I usually do, I have a routine that I go through. It’s just – I think about what I’m doing only when I’m out there on the field. So when I get out there, I kind of scan and see what the situation is, and where we are and what side (of the 50) we’re on, and I kind of go from there. I visualize what I want the punt to look like, what I want my form to look like, and kind of just clear my mind and just go. Then, say I hit a punt that wasn’t really what I like, then I may go to the sideline and do some adjustments on the sideline, “All right, next time I want to do this.” And I’ll work on that a little bit, if it’s something with my drop or something like that.

Yeah, take us through the process of punting… It’s something that happens so quickly and it looks pretty easy, but what do you think are the most important aspects of doing that?

There’s two main parts to a punt: there’s the drop, and there’s the leg swing. The leg swing is, you got your two steps and you’re swinging straight through the ball. And then, the drive’s just making sure you’ve got a flat drive, making solid contact with your foot. And there’s a lot more technicality that goes with it, a little more precision than people realize. Just like how far outside to hold the ball, how much to turn the nose in, just stuff like that. And then, you know, with your leg swing, you want to make sure you’re swinging straight through it towards where you’re going to, and you want to make sure your body’s facing that way, too, with your swing. So, I mean, there’s definitely a lot more than people realize. It’s a little more complicated.

I’ve heard that punting is like golf in that, no matter how much you practice, you can always mess up. Do you think that’s true?

Oh, that’s definitely true. I mean, it’s just like a golf swing, because with a golf swing, you’re off by inches and, you know, you’re in the trees instead of in the fairway. It’s the same exact thing with punting. If the ball’s just a little too far outside, that’s the difference between a 50-yarder and a 30-yarder. It is literally a game of inches when it comes to punting and kicking.

You have always been a punter, is that right? I’ve seen a lot of players who played different positions in high school, but you were a punter through high school. Is that correct?

Yeah, all throughout high school. I mean, that’s all I ever wanted to be. I came into (Westfield) high school (in Virginia), and our high school, you have to realize, is huge. About 3,500 kids. Our starting – this is our offense – our starting quarterback was Sean Glennon, he used to play for Tech. Then you’ve got Eddie Royal who was our receiver, with the Broncos now, and then our running back Evan Royster (now at Penn State) is going to be one of the top running backs in the draft next year. That’s kind of the caliber of players that go to our high school. So, I mean, I’d love to play another position, but I always did want to be the punter, and we had some high-caliber people on our team already.

Did you play sports in junior high?

Yeah, I mean, I played sports since I was little, up until high school. High school is when I exclusively just played football for the school. I still played basketball, house league, and I can still play golf all the time. But leading up to high school I was playing soccer, baseball, basketball. You know, pretty much everything under the sun.

And was your brother a punter?

Yeah, my older brother was a two-year starter for Florida State back in ’04 and ’05. He’s the reason that I got into punting to begin with.

What was it about watching him punt that made you want to do it?

When he was punting in high school, he would just take me out to practice with him, and I’d catch balls or through snaps to him or something. I don’t know, he just started teaching me how to do it, and I loved doing it, so I just kind of stuck with it. After watching him get recruited to the big-time schools, I was like, man, I kind of want to do that, too, so I just punted and stuck with it.

Where were you recruited?

The main schools that I was recruited to were Tech, Penn State, Maryland, West Virginia, Southern Cal and Mississippi.

And besides the obvious reasons, what brought you to Tech?

I mean, I just love the atmosphere. You know, it’s kind of a small town, but all the people there were really, really nice. And I just had a great time when I went there for my visit, just hanging, meeting people and hanging out with them and everything. I thought Coach Beamer was a great guy, and I loved the system he runs down there. You know, he ran a pro style punt team, and they really emphasize the special teams and they practice them every day, so I knew I was going to get some respect if I went there. So, it was my obvious first choice, no matter what.

Could you tell during the recruiting process that Virginia Tech seems to pay a little more attention to special teams than other schools?

Yeah, I mean, they always talk about it on TV and stuff, how we pay attention more on special teams, and, I mean, you could definitely tell, because – just the way Coach Beamer was talking about special teams, and what he was going to do in regards to competition when I came in and stuff like that. He knew what he was talking about. That’s kind of what set him apart from the rest of the colleges, just that he kind of had more knowledge than anybody else, and I knew he was going to be a little more, I guess, forgiving and understanding of what I do. And he would be a lot more helpful, I think.

And how was your experience at Tech overall?

Oh, it was great. I mean, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love Tech, and I’m glad I went there, for sure.

It might be a little difficult for team scouts to get a good handle on the type of player you are. What do you think they should know about (you) that they might not see on film?

That I’m a really – I think I’m a really unselfish player, really humble, and I work hard. I think I work harder than anybody else at what I do. And you can’t really see that on film. You can see, kind of, the results of it, but there’s a lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of hard work that went into it, and even now I still know I’m not even close to being as good as I feel I can be. So, it’s going to keep going. And I don’t think they see the passion that I have; they’ll only see that when they actually meet me in person and get to talk to me.

You were a holder too, weren’t you?

Yeah. Did it in high school. I backed up the first three years, then I did it at Tech my last two.

And what are the keys to being a good holder?

It’s just all about repetition. I mean, you kicker’s got to trust you to begin with… so you need to do a lot of work with him and just practice. Once you practice, it’s kind of like riding a bike: you can just kind of do it without thinking. But, I mean, it takes a while to get used to it. It’s kind of an awkward position, and catching and spinning and everything, it’s a lot more complicated than people realize. But once you get it down, it’s just another way to get on the field, and you know, I love doing it.

Well, Brent, I wish you good luck, and thanks a lot for talking to us.

Yeah, no problem.

All right, take care.

All right, you, too.

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