On Wednesday and Thursday Texas Tech punter, Ryan Erxleben and his father Russell Erxleben were in Scottsdale, Arizona for a One on One Punting Lesson. Ryan was the starting punter for the Red Raiders as a true freshman this past season.
Ryan's Father Russell Exrleben was a three time All-American Punter at the University of Texas back in the late 1970's. He was a first round draft choice by the New Orleans Saints in t979 and played several years in the NFL for the Saints and Lions.
Russell was a big 6'3 230 pound combination Punter / Kicker. He was known for his big booming leg and was in the NCAA record books for kicking the longest field goal. During his college career he kicked record setting field goals of 64 and 67 yards.
The first time I met Russell Erxleben was back in 1978 at the River Falls Kicking Camp along with Tony Franklin who was an the All-American Kicker at Texas A & M. Tony was also in the NCAA record books for being the only kicker to kick two 60 yard field goals in One Game. Tony was a third round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1979.
Back in the good old days Russell and Tony were the two biggest and hottest names in the College Football Kicking World. Both were from Texas and both had Big Booming Legs! I spent a couple weeks with both players doing Kicking Camps at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls and Widener Pennsylvania.
I had not seen or heard from Tony or Russell in over thirty some years and about two months ago I received a phone call and it was from Russell Erxleben. Russell was searching the Internet and found my website and gave me a call.
Ring, Ring ..... on the other end of the phone I hear 'Hey, Trophy Bear' guess who this is?" Long pause.... I think who is this. Eventually I get an answer, this is Russell Exrleben. I almost fell on the floor. I hadn't heard that name 'Trophy Bear' in years. I won't go into great detail but back in the summer of 1978 a group of college kickers and myself took a three week caravan across the country doing kicking camps.
Some how (which I won't explain) during the trip Russell gave me the nick name of 'Trophy Bear'. And all I will say about that nick name is what goes on the road stays on the road.
We talked at length about the good old days and the fun we had in the summer of 1978 doing the kicking camps.
Russell then started talking about his son Ryan who this past season was the starting punter at Texas Tech. Russell mentioned that Ryan was an excellent high school football player. He was named all-state as a punter and defensive end at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. He was a member of the two-time state champions going 15-1 in 2007 and 16-0 in 2008.
As Russell continued to talk he mentioned that Ryan's size and weight of 6' and a 190 pounds was not big enough to play linebacker at a Division 1 College but had the talent to be a excellent punter.
As a true freshman Ryan Erxleben became the starting punter at Texas Tech University. Russell with a father's watchful eye noticed a couple of flaws in his Ryan's technique. Russell continued to work with Ryan on his fundamentals and technique and knew something was wrong but was not sure how to fix it.
I told Russell that is the same conversation I had with several other NFL fathers who son's were now kickers and punters in high school and college. In 2008 Gary Anderson brought his son Austin a kicker at McGill College in Canada. In 2009 Kevin Butler brought his son Drew, a punter at Georgia who won the prestigious 'Ray Guy Award' this past season. And this year 2010, Jeff Feagles brought his two sons, Blake a high school punter back east and CJ a punter at the University of North Carolina all to Scottsdale, Arizona for One on One Kicking / Punting Lessons.
I told Russell all the fathers had the same comment. They all said they knew there was a problem with their sons kicking or punting technique but did not know how to fix it. The other comment some of the fathers made was, it sometimes not all that easy coaching your own son. That is why all four fathers decide to bring their sons to Scottsdale, Arizona to have me coach their sons and show them how to correct the problems.
ONE on ONE with RYAN ERXLEBEN:
During Ryan's first lesson, as he went through his drop drill and warm up punts I quickly picked up on what Ryan's couple flaws were. He had a low and very flat drop. He also cut across the ball with a wiping motion looking like he was trying to wipe or create a spiral action on the ball. As Ryan continued to punt I asked him to try a couple of things.
Ryan, I must say was a quick study during the two One on One Punting Lessons. When I asked him to try something he did it almost perfect with limited repetitions. Ryan was an excellent listener and very coachable.
As Russell and I talked the biggest adjustment Ryan has to make is going from being an every down defensive football player to just being a punter. He was busy playing the game of football. Ryan in high school never did any punting drills because he was always playing on defense. He punted because he was good at it.
Now, that Ryan is the starting punter at Texas Tech my job is to educate him how to not only refine his game but take it to the next level and be the best he can be.
During our afternoon video review session I pointed out a couple of flaws to Ryan and Russell and they became crystal clear on the big screen T.V. in stop action and slow motion replays.
The second day we started with fundamentals and drills. I taught Ryan my Drop Progression, One Step and Catch and One Step Drills. I continued with a progression of drills to give Ryan the correct muscle memory to improve his technique and consistency.
Ryan was like a sponge trying to absorb everything I was saying. As I said earlier, he was a quick study and picked up drills and concepts quickly. He was turning over every ball during the drills and making progress.
Then we went back to just punting the ball with a snap. Ryan reverted back to his old form and frustration set in. As I told him and everyone that comes through here for One on One Lessons. It takes about three weeks of drills and practice before it becomes natural. The specialists must stay committed and work the mirror drills and other drills everyday to get better.
My motto is... 'PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE'. George Allen who is one of my former coaches always said "Work Hard and Good Things will Happen!" And I believe that is true in football and life.
Ryan ended the second session with a couple of (SNO) Spiral Nose Over Punts. As you can see in the above photo, Ryan also ended the session with improved and excellent form punting up and through the ball with better consistency. Ryan and his father both told me that they were very happy with the results.
It was a real pleasure seeing Russell once again, talking and exchanging stories. It was also a pleasure meeting and working with his son Ryan. Ryan has four years left to play three. He has a lot of time left on his clock to continually get better. It will take his commitment and a lot of hard work.
However, after meeting Ryan and getting to know him the last two days, commitment and hard work is what he is use to. He has a passion to be the best and I am sure he will attack and tackle this opportunity just like when he played football on defense. I wish him the best of luck next season at Texas Tech.
Click below to listen to Russell Erxleben's Testimonial after seeing Coach Zauner work with his son, Ryan. Also, there is a short video at the end of the testimonial of Russell Erxleben punting and kicking when he was a specialists at the University of Texas back in 1978.
Note: Russel was a straight-on kicker!
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