Hlas: Hawkeyes' new punter Coluzzi profited from pain

Graduate transfer was knocked out, then got up again

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IOWA CITY — Iowa has a new starting punter. He once got flattened to fame.

“If you look up my name on Google,” Ron Coluzzi said Tuesday, “the first thing that pops up is ‘Coluzzi getting trucked.’ ”

That’s no longer accurate. Tuesday, it took until the fifth result after you entered “Ron Coluzzi” to the search engine to find “Central Michigan Punter Ron Coluzzi Gets Trucked on Attempted Tackle vs. Purdue.”

The eighth listing was “WATCH: Central Michigan punter gets destroyed trying to make a tackle.”

Coluzzi, a graduate transfer who recently won Iowa’s starting job at punter, got unwanted fame after he was plastered by Purdue punt-returner Frankie Williams two years ago.

 

“I hit a punt downfield,” Coluzzi said. “I had family in the stands, my girlfriend, friends. I was on Cloud Nine. I was happy because I hit a great (53-yard) punt.

“I was jogging a little too far downfield in coverage. I was running away from a blocker who was about three times my size. The ball-carrier came out of nowhere. I got clocked.”

Concussed is what he got. And famous, to a degree.

“At first, it was embarrassing,” Coluzzi said. “It was a hard point in my life to where I had to learn how to laugh at myself. It was on ESPN (SportsCenter’s), ‘Not Top 10’ or whatever. It was on Vine, Facebook, Twitter. A lot of people laughed at my experience.

“But if you can learn to laugh at yourself you can use that in certain situations. I think you can grow.”

Coluzzi isn’t afraid to stretch, that’s for sure. He was Central Michigan’s No. 1 place-kicker in 2013 as a red-shirt freshman, and its No. 1 punter in 2014 and 2015. He averaged 39.2 yards per punt last year for the Chippewas. He averaged 52 yards for four punts against Western Michigan, and hit five for a 44.4-yard average at Syracuse.

“I think I’ve played my best game games when it’s a bigger atmosphere,” he said, and that’s key. Because he won’t be playing before an average home crowd of 15,672 like he did at Central Michigan in 2015.

“I’ve played at Michigan, I’ve played at Syracuse, Michigan State. I’ve played at Purdue even though I got knocked out of that game,” Coluzzi said. “My first career start ever was against Michigan.”

He made all three of his field goal tries that day. But now his primary job is punter. Or is it? He’ll also be holding for freshman place-kicker Keith Duncan, and handling kickoffs.

“To be honest,” Coluzzi said, “the best part of the game is the kickoff, opening the game with a kickoff. All eyes are on you. That’s my bread and butter. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. It’s just my favorite thing to do. Punting would be next after that.”

How and why Coluzzi chose to Iowa isn’t complicated. He wanted to spend his senior season in the Big Ten and spotted a program with a “Help Wanted” sign in its window.

“It was toward the end of (last) season,” he said. “I started punting better and better, started being more mature as a person. And I knew I just wanted to play at a higher level.

“I saw a couple games last year where (Iowa kicker) Marshall Koehn and (punter) Dillon Kidd were playing and the announcers were talking about them and said they’re seniors, they’ll be graduating next year. It just kind of clicked in my head.”

There was the not-so-small matter of winning the starting job. Coluzzi arrived here in June as a walk-on. He now is again a scholarship player.

When asked Tuesday, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t say who would kick a field goal if one is to be tried from, say, 57 yards out. But Coluzzi said “I’m trying to implement long field goals” into his duties.

I’d trust him for now. Coluzzi is 22, but sounds 33 or 44. He was articulate and poised Tuesday before what had to have been the biggest crowd of reporters he’s ever faced.

“Ron, from the first time we met him last winter has just been a really mature, heads-up guy,” Ferentz said.

“We, I think, picked up a really good punter, but on top of that a guy that can help steady that group (of kickers) a little bit and kind of show them the way to do things in terms of practice, and when games start to come around, I think help steady guys a little bit.”

But Coluzzi called himself “an adrenaline junkie.”

“I like pressure,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.

“I’ve been sky diving. I’ve been scuba diving in Honduras. I just love pressure situations.”

As for getting blown up by that Boilermaker two years ago? Coluzzi literally has profited from it.

“I did an internship for Coyote Logistics (in Chicago, near his Naperville, Ill., hometown) last summer and I sold freight out of a brokerage,” the marketing/logistics management major said. “I would send that video to some of my clients to get the ball rolling with whatever we were selling that day.

“It did work. I got a bunch of relationships with companies. People always joked about it over the phone.”

If Coluzzi consistently pins back punt-returners this fall instead of getting planted by one, he’ll be able to sell snow to Hawkeye fans in January.

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