Sept. 29, 2006
By Austin Ward, UT Sports Information
He says there's no pressure.
Not because the punter is generally the last person anybody wants to see on the field.
Or because he's at a school that has valued the kicking game as much - or more - as any other in the country.
And definitely not because Britton Colquitt feels any sort of burden to live up to his family legacy, the latest in a line from Tennessee's first family of punting.
Those things don't matter when he's alone in the backfield, waiting for the chance to do what his dad, his cousin and brother all did so well before him. They don't matter when he takes his first stride or drops the ball, and it's the furthest thing from Colquitt's mind when he's pinning opponents back inside their 20, their 8, the 5 - where will it stop? - on down to the 2-yard line.
Sure, they're all challenges - but no different to Colquitt than the next chance to step on the field.
It's all part of the fun.
The punting pedigree has its blessings.
Always being called the right Colquitt isn't one of them.
"I've been called Dustin a lot," Britton said of the references to his older brother. "Millions of times."
But Colquitt is quick to point out that it's an honor to be confused with a two-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award.
His older brother led the Vols for four years before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs, handing over his responsibilities to younger brother last season.
The siblings learned at the foot of Craig, the father and first Colquitt to don the Orange and White, who passed on the kicking gene after twice earning All-SEC honors in the mid-70s. Cousin Jimmy was next in the 80s - twice an All-America - before Craig's boys took the reins and locked up the position for the better part of this decade.
Ranking 1-2-3 all-time at UT - Jimmy, Dustin then Craig, for the record - Britton isn't exactly lacking for guidance. For that matter, he didn't come to Rocky Top without a fair bit of expectations attached to his surname, either.
"It doesn't put any extra pressure on me," Colquitt said. "It just gives me extra goals to shoot for.
"It's really kind of a challenge that I enjoy. They set big standards, and my goal is to break their records and succeed as much and more as they did. It gives me more of an opportunity, more of a goal to set, to really reach the level that they have."
Talk around the family - and from head coach Phillip Fulmer - is that the levels previous Colquitts have set on The Hill might not be high enough.
"They are the first to tell me that I'm better than they were at the same level," Colquitt said. "That's an amazing compliment to hear them say, 'You're going to be better than us.'
"Really I just try to take it in stride and stay humble, because there's no reason to look at myself like that since God gave me the opportunity to learn and get these chances."
Even if Britton won't compare apples to apples from the Colquitt tree, Fulmer said there's little question which punter was further along as a sophomore.
"I actually said it from the beginning that he was probably ahead of where Dustin was, because he really worked with his dad a lot more than Dustin did growing up," he said. "I'm hopeful that he can continue to make progress.
"I really think that he has a chance to be really, really special - and, of course, they were all special."
Last Saturday against Marshall, he had one of those special games.
A Colquitt game.
Making a name for himself is all-but-impossible at UT, but he certainly lived up to it against the Thundering Herd.
Three punts for an average of 56 yards. All three were downed inside the 8-yard line - including a beautiful third-quarter boot that locked up Marshall at the two.
He's averaging 42.2 yards per punt through four games - a number which might go up if the Vols offense would let him get in a little more work.
Not that Colquitt is complaining.
"I love helping the team out, but at the same time, the less I'm out there the better our team is doing offensively," he said. "So, obviously, I'm one of the biggest cheerleaders on the sideline.
"I'm always rooting for our team to do good offensively, but I always want to get in there a little bit. It's one of those things, I want to be out there because it's my position and I love doing it."
The Vols loved having him, too, as the offense struggled just enough through three quarters that Colquitt could have been the game's most valuable player until LaMarcus Coker bolted 89 yards for a touchdown to put the contest out of reach.
"Britton Colquitt was obviously a big factor in the last ballgame," Fulmer said. "I think that he can be a tremendous weapon for us during the course of this season if he can continue to be consistent and continue to mature as a football player and have that tenacity and mental toughness that it takes to be a difference-maker in this league - a punter or kicker has to have that same mentality of any player on the team."
The same mentality as a linebacker?
From a punter?
Count Fulmer as one of the few coaches in the nation that spread the gospel of Peter, Paul and Punting.
But UT has always placed a premium on the kicking game (See: Maxims, Neyland), even if the punter is often the last player any fan wants to see trotting onto the field.
"I think we embrace it at Tennessee as much as anybody can possibly embrace it," Fulmer said. "We grew up as the kicking game being a part of what we do, a third of the game as General Neyland would tell us all, and he's been really good for us."
And Colquitt has tried to help turn his appearances into positives for the Vols - not quite a scoring drive, not nearly a stop, but perhaps a little bit of both.
"That's how coach Fulmer emphasizes it," he said. "Really, the way that our fans are and the way that they embrace the punting position - because of my dad, Dustin and Jimmy - is really amazing.
"Everywhere else we go, nobody really pays that much attention to the kicking game. It's really paid attention to here, and it honors me to take that opportunity and make it into something good, a positive point of the game. Not so much, an 'Ah, our offense didn't move the ball, we've got to punt.' But rather, 'Well, our offense moved the ball pretty well, but now we've got to pin them back.'
"It's an honor to do it."