Iowa has an all-conference punter, mate.
Not too many better human-interest stories in college football this season than Tory Taylor. He was announced as the 2020 winner of the Big Ten Conference’s Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year.
The 23-year-old true freshman made his way from Australia to the United States during this COVID-19 pandemic and was a difference maker for his Hawkeyes. He averaged 44.1 yards per kick, including nine boots of 50 yards or more.
More importantly, he consistently put opponents in poor field position, with 18 of his 40 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had only one touchback, with punt returners averaging but 4.6 yards on just six returns.
Those six returns also included two lost fumbles.
“Sacrifice a little, chase your dreams, and the opportunities are endless,” Taylor said Thursday on Twitter. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me get here.”
Iowa recruited Taylor out of Pro Kick Australia, a program that trains punters and sends many of them onto college programs. Special teams coach LeVar Woods made a 26-hour trip one way to meet with Taylor and his parents in Melbourne, which cemented Taylor’s decision to come to Iowa City.
Taylor had never seen an American football game in person until he punted in Iowa’s season opener at Purdue. The Hawkeyes’ punter last season, Michael Sleep-Dalton, also was from Australia.
“Tory is still fairly new to punting, which is exciting as a coach, because you see there’s so much potential in the guy, not only on the football field but also as a person, as a young man,” Woods said. “The sky’s the limit for that guy. I know I’ve been repeating that, but I think it’s the truth for all these guys we’re talking about. I think there’s a lot out there for him.”
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Iowa’s Charlie Jones was named a second-team All-Big Ten return specialist by league coaches and a third-teamer by media covering the conference. Jones is a junior wide receiver who came to Iowa as a walk-on from the University of Buffalo but who received a scholarship last week it was announced.
Keith Duncan of the Hawkeyes was named a third-team All-Big Ten kicker by both the media and coaches. Ihmir Smith-Marsette received honorable mention as a return specialist.
Taylor, by the way, is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, as the nation’s top punter. Duncan is a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to a former walk-on who has gone on to distinguish himself in his program.
Indiana’s Tom Allen was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the media and coaches. Kicker of the Year is Nebraska’s Connor Culp, Return Specialist of the Year is Aron Cruickshank of Rutgers.
Michigan’s Vincent Smith was named the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award winner and Northwestern’s Napoleon Harris the Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award winner.
Iowa (6-2) had its Champions Week game Saturday against Michigan canceled because of COVID-19 issues on the Wolverines’ side. It is expected to find out Sunday which bowl game it will be headed to.
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