GAINESVILLE — The way Kyle Christy recalls it, there was never really a request, more like a statement of fact. The punter at Brownsburg (Ind.) High was graduating and the Bulldogs desperately needed a replacement.
Coach Brett Comer decided Christy was his guy.
He had never punted in his life, but Christy was a football player who had also played soccer. And, frankly, he was the best option at the time.
"After my sophomore year he told me, 'We're going to need you to punt next year,' " Christy said. "So I worked with a lot of coaches (during the summer) and watched a lot of film. And I taught myself how to punt."
Four years later, Christy, now Florida's punter, has transformed into one of the nation's best.
The sophomore leads the SEC with a 46.5-yard average on 24 punts for 1,115 yards. Nine of his punts have been more than 50 yards. He ranks fifth in the nation.
"He's had a tremendous impact on our football team," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "When we went to Tennessee, early in the game we get pinned back inside our 5-yard line and he punts it all the way back to their 30. His leg and him being able to flip the field and control the vertical field position has been critical to our success this season and why we are where we are. He is an outstanding punter."
Though he was ranked the No. 2 punter in the nation by Scout.com coming out of high school, Christy's college options were limited. He attended numerous camps, hoping to showcase his talent to coaches. In the end, his only offers were from Florida and LSU.
"LSU offered me at the beginning of the summer, and Florida's camp wasn't until the end of the summer," Christy said. "So after I got the LSU offer, I kind of crossed off a bunch of camps that I was planning on going to. I showed up here, did really well. And Urban (Meyer) was still here, and he offered me (a scholarship) about a week later."
Against LSU last week, Christy pinned the Tigers inside their 10-yard line on three of his four punts in the first half, including a season-long 61 yarder. He also has punts of 51, 53 and 57 yards. He is making life easier for the entire team.
"I think he's done a terrific job," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "Anytime you can change field position like he can with the big hit like he's had at times this year, especially when you're backed up, I think those are the (best) punts he's had. … He has been a valuable performer for us."
"I know he's in the back of our mind," offensive coordinator Brent Pease added. "Sometimes, like (against LSU), when it's third and 17, I said, 'Hey, let's get 5 to 8 yards and let him flip the field. He's a weapon."
Christy's success hasn't come overnight. He didn't earn the starting job until five games into the 2011 season. He's on his third long snapper. And he spent countless hours in the offseason perfecting his technique.
"I kind of struggled with operation time last year," he said. "I was a little slow with my hands. Coach (D.J.) Durkin (special teams) and Coach Muschamp were always getting on me about it and during the offseason I worked a lot on that. I changed my drop a little bit, and I also just caught a bunch of snaps, and using the Jugs Machine I worked on catching balls over and over and over, getting my drop right."
With quarterback Jeff Driskel as his roommate, Christy is acutely aware of the attention offensive stars garner. Sheepishly, he admits he's enjoying his now.
"It's kind of cool to get that recognition," he said. "I like when I get a lot of the credit, and it feels good to help the team out."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]