Pat McAfee: Career retrospective
Former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee made a name for himself as one of the most exciting punters in the game. After two Pro Bowls and a lot of big plays, McAfee is setting the world on fire in sports media. Check out his story below.
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Pat McAfee grew up in Plum, Pennsylvania — a small town just outside Pittsburgh. McAfee was a three-sport high school athlete at Plum High School (volleyball, soccer, football). McAfee took a similar path when compared to most NFL punters and kickers. He was a solid soccer player in high school and tried out as a kicker for the football team. Eventually, he bloomed into a great special teams player and became one of the top kickers in high school football.
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Committing to West Virginia
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McAfee received a full ride from West Virginia University. He majored in communications. The kid from Plum jumped up the depth chart quickly, earning the starting kicker role as a true freshman.
There was no sophomore slump for McAfee, who went 17-of-22 on field goals and made all 62 of his extra-point attempts.
Fun fact: West Virginia is the best party school in America, according to Barstool Sports.
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Becoming a campus legend
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By the time his junior and senior seasons rolled around, McAfee was a campus legend. He was one of the best special teams players in the country. His senior year was the stuff of legends. He was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He also became the West Virginia Mountaineers’ all-time leading scorer with 384 career points.
McAfee finished his college career going 210-of-212 on PATs and booted 73.4 percent of his field goals (58-of-79). He logged 126 punts for 5,512 yards and a solid average of 43.7 yards.
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Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts
McAfee wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine despite having a fine college career. This was odd because he attended the Senior Bowl, which basically makes you a shoo-in for the combine. Instead of participating in the combine, he worked out for the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots. In these tryouts, he proved he had what it took to play at the next level. The Colts drafted him in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft. It was official. McAfee was going to the NFL!
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Going to the Super Bowl his rookie year
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McAfee won the starting job as the Colts punter and kickoff specialist in training camp. However, he didn’t make the cut for placekicker. That responsibility went to NFL legend Adam Vinatieri during the bulk of McAfee’s career. The Colts were like a stampede all season long. They went 14-2 and made it to Super Bowl XLIV, where they lost to the New Orleans Saints. What a start to your NFL career!
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Mastering the art of punting
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It is often said special teams is a third of football. Of course, offense and defense come first. But special teams is just as important. A punt inside the 20-yard has the power to change the momentum of a game. McAfee knew this. He wanted to be the best punter in the league. Through hard work and many sleepless nights, McAfee went from a small-town kid who went to the biggest party school in America to the premier punter of the 2010s.
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Pro Bowl season in 2014
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The year 2014 was great for McAfee. He won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September. McAfee booted 69 punts for 3,221 yards and a whopping 30 punts inside the 20-yard line. To top it all off, he recovered his own onside kick. McAfee earned his first Pro Bowl nod. The Colts saw success as well. They were one win away from the Super Bowl, losing to the New England Patriots in the playoffs.
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Going back to Hawaii in 2016
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Two years after his first Pro Bowl, McAfee was going back to Honolulu, Hawaii. He booted 55 punts for 2,711 yards with 19 landing inside the 20-yard line. The highlight of his season was a 74-yard punt against the Chicago Bears. In another absurd event, he showed off his rocket of an arm during a fake punt pass on Thanksgiving Day. Even though McAfee had a successful outing, his team struggled. The Colts ended their injury-ravaged season with an 8-8 record.
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The luck of McAfee
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
As we all know, the horseshoe is the Colts’ logo. It is often said the horseshoe is a sign of good luck. The charm must’ve rubbed off on McAfee. He thrived as a special teams ace for the Colts, no doubt. But every now and then, McAfee proved he was a man with many tricks up his sleeve. There were times when he’d punt the ball on the opposing team’s one-yard line or complete a fake punt pass that left you saying, “No way.” I mean, just watch his highlight tape. In the end, his good fortune made him a fan favorite. Most importantly, it helped the Colts win.
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A kicker who wasn’t afraid to give out a hit
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McAfee was the Colts’ punter and kickoff specialist for the majority of the ‘10s. If there’s one thing McAfee became known for throughout his entertaining career, it’s that he could hit. Most kickoff specialists are fine with doing their job and letting other players make the tackle. McAfee was built different. He wasn’t afraid to dish out a big hit. McAfee’s hit stick was on full display when he laid the boom on Broncos kick returner Trindon Holliday in 2013.
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A career ended too soon
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
McAfee retired after eight seasons with the Colts to join Barstool Sports. Three knee operations in four years took its toll on McAfee’s love for the game. Still, he left on top of the game as the best punter in the league. The big-time playmaker is greatly missed across the NFL.
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Thriving as an analyst
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Since retiring, McAfee has been finding joy in his second career. He started in sports media with Barstool Sports, leaving the company in August 2018.
He then announced a slew of games with Fox Sports, showing off his natural talent for the job.
The West Virginia alum is a mainstay on ESPN. He’s made appearances on College GameDay and Get Up! He’s scheduled to be in front of the camera even more in the future.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Standing at 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, McAfee went from the gridiron to the ring with the WWE as an athlete and commentator. He’s previously worked with NXT TakeOver and The Kings of NXT. Most recently, he’s affiliated with SmackDown.
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‘The Pat McAfee Show’
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McAfee’s most notable move since retiring is creating The Pat McAfee Show, a podcast all about football. It’s skyrocketed in popularity since its inception. The classic conversations on the show sound like a bunch of friends talking sports instead of a hit show, and it’s been extremely lucrative for McAfee . Plus, it’s seemingly Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite show to appear on.
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What’s next for McAfee?
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Pat McAfee took his credentials as a punter with a golden boot and became a sports media career. He’s already successful and just getting started. At 35 years old, the sky’s the limit for the kid from Plum, Pennsylvania. Regardless of what McAfee does next, he’ll be living life while doing it.
David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He’s a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn’t watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.
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