Iowa Football has arguably the best punter in the nation. Tory Taylor should be a favorite for the Ray Guy Award.
For the second straight season, the Iowa Football program has an Australian punter. Tory Taylor, standing at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, has been a massive addition for the Hawkeyes in 2020 (pun intended), and his instant success should warrant him consideration for the Ray Guy Award.
Taylor, a 23-year-old true freshman, hails from Melbourne, Australia, where the common name for American football is “footy”. It’s becoming more usual to see punters of Australian descent on American college teams. As you can probably imagine, the reasoning is pretty straight forward.
Taylor attributes the recent influx of Australian punters to the strong fundamentals of the Australian version of football. In the Australian version of the game, points are scored by kicking a similarly shaped oval ball between goal posts (worth six points).
Because nearly every player on the field needs to be skilled in kicking, the frequency in which Australian punters are popping up all around college campuses in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years.
“I’ve been kicking an Australian Rules football for 20 years, since I came out of the womb pretty much,” Taylor said in his first ever meeting with the media last week.
Luckily for the Hawkeyes, Taylor decided to bring his talents to Iowa City. But it didn’t matter where Taylor might have played. He’s relished the opportunity from the beginning and was grateful after his first collegiate start.
“At Purdue … I just kind of took a moment and said, ‘I guess I’ve kind of made it,'” Taylor said. “I found out I can do it, and I’m trying to make my family and friends really proud of me.”
In three games this season, Taylor has been a weapon for Iowa’s special teams unit. He’s averaging approximately 46.0 yards per punt (13th in FBS). More importantly, Taylor ranks second in net punt average (46.5 yards), which factors in the total yards gained on punt returns. The Hawkeyes have actually allowed negative yardage (minus-eight) on punt returns this season (second in FBS).
Taylor has already shattered the Iowa record for the best punting average in team history. John Gallery (2003-05) held the previous record of 43.2 yards per punt on 10 attempts. Taylor’s average comes in at 46.0 yards per punt on 17 attempts. Compared to last season, Michael Sleep-Dalton (also from Australia) averaged 41.7 yards per punt on 58 attempts.
Though early, Taylor’s immediate success has to place him in the conversation for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented annually to college football’s best punter. The award first began in 2000.
History is on Taylor’s side. It’s notable that six of the past seven recent winners of the Ray Guy Award have been players of Australian descent. The list includes Max Duffy (Kentucky), Michael Dixon (Texas), Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah), Tom Hackett (Utah) and Tom Hornsey (Memphis). Utah had three consecutive award-winners from 2014-16. Taylor’s current net average places him ahead of the curve when comparing to recent winners.
It’s hardly believable that Taylor is a true freshman, but at 23 years old he’s practically grown into his frame by now. Iowa will have Taylor for at least two more seasons after 2020, and potentially longer if he doesn’t transfer or declare for the NFL Draft.
The Hawkeyes have one of the best weapons in college football, but not by conventional standards. Though the offense probably wishes they didn’t need Tory Taylor so much, at least they know they have a safety net to fall back on.