Kickin' back with Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter Michael Koenen

Michael Koenen grew up and went to college near the Canadian border in Washington then had to make a big adjustment to the heat of the South when he began his NFL career with the Falcons. Every offseason, he has driven all the way from the East Coast back to Washington.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Michael Koenen grew up and went to college near the Canadian border in Washington then had to make a big adjustment to the heat of the South when he began his NFL career with the Falcons. Every offseason, he has driven all the way from the East Coast back to Washington.

Tell me about your hometown, Ferndale, Wash. That's a different world to us down here.

Actually, it's a pretty big football town. It's a farming community. We have a lot of dairy farms. It's your pretty basic town.

So what's the big football rivalry in town?

Our big rivalry is Lynden High. They're about 20 minutes away. It's always a pretty big game when we play them. They have to bring in extra bleachers that we don't have for the other games. It's a packed house; standing-room only. It's a real big environment for a high school football game.

You grew up 20 miles from the Canadian border. Have you gotten used to living in the South from being in Atlanta and now Tampa?

This transition to Tampa was a lot easier. I adjusted really fast after being in Atlanta for six years. But (Atlanta) was a big transition. Boy, it is hot down here. Going through training camp and trying to stay hydrated is rough.

All right. Here are my weekly questions. What is playing the most on your iPod right now?

Probably (Christian rock group) Casting Crowns. That's my go-to music.

What website do you visit the most?

I'm on Twitter a bunch now. I just got into that. And Facebook a little. But I'm always Googling stuff. I'm Googling for stuff about hunting and fishing or cars. That's what I'm into.

What reality TV show do you never miss?

I don't miss Sons of Guns. I don't miss Whale Wars. I got into Swords, too. And you know what? I'm addicted to the jail shows on MSNBC. Lockup: Raw. That stuff is good.

So you say you're into cars. What specifically are you into?

I love cars. If I liked to spend money more, I'd have just about every one I could get. I enjoy it. It's the same as football. It brings people together. I love driving, building, all of it. I love old-school cars. I love off-road stuff. It's all fun to me. My brother-in-law builds cars, so he has a '70 Challenger. It's just pristine. It has a 440 big-block (engine). It's just so clean. I bought a '69 truck that I want to fix up eventually. If I had more time, I'd do more of it.

Where did that passion come from?

My dad always loved cars. He'd always talk about the hot rods backs in the '60s. Plus, my first car was an old Camaro. It was an '80s Camaro. So it wasn't that cool. But to me, it was.

You mentioned hunting and fishing. Is that a result of where you grew up?

A little bit. I've always fished. But I didn't start hunting until I met my wife and her family. But I really started doing it in Georgia with (Falcons quarterback) Chris Redman and some other guys on the team. They got me into it about three years ago. I jumped right into bow hunting. That's my favorite thing. I mean, I play in the NFL, and there's nothing that gets my heart rate going faster than having a big ol' buck walk out and I'm sitting there with my bow in the middle of the woods.

Kind of like making a perfect kick?

Yeah. It's just so nerve-racking. You can sit there all day, and then there's just this one intense moment and everything escalates. Your heart is just beating out of your chest, and you're trying not to mess up. I love it.

You pretty good at it?

Yeah. I've killed two pretty good-sized deer. One was a little smaller, but one was a big eight-point deer. I guess I'm decent at it.

Have you had a chance to get into any of this down here in Florida, although you just got here?

I do want to shoot a gator. I'm trying to find a couple of spots. It's really different because I'm such a mountain guy. Out West, I'd be hunting for elk or something. But I want to get out there and maybe shoot a whitetail or something. I'm sure there's something out there.

I'm glad we did this.

Well, since we're here, there's something else people probably don't know about me. I took up photography a while back, and I've really gotten into it. We've been to Israel and Italy, Yellowstone. That was really amazing. We saw so much. We saw these wild horses on the other side of Yellowstone. It was awesome, man. Plus we always drive home (to Washington state) for the offseason.

You drive?

Yeah. It's fun. We bought an RV, so I guess we're RVers.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com

.Biography

Michael Koenen

Position: Punter, kickoff specialistAge: 29

Hometown: Ferndale, Wash.Ht/wt: 5-11; 198

College: Western Washington; converted 43 of 74 field goals for the Division II school; set school record for career punting average at 43.1 yards.

Pro: Spent six seasons with the Falcons after going undrafted in 2005; recorded 106 touchbacks among 449 kickoffs (23.6 percent between 2005-10 and seven among 10 kickoffs (70 percent) this season; joined the Bucs as a free agent in August, signing a six-year, $19 million contract.

Kickin' back with Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter Michael Koenen 10/02/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 2, 2011 11:36pm]

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