After An Award-Winning Senior Season, Quigley Eyes The NFL
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
In a sport where the participants all wear helmets that conceal their true identities, certain stars emerge by dint of their achievements on the stat sheet. Players like Luke Kuechly, Chase Rettig and Montel Harris became household names for tackling anything that moves, scoring touchdowns, and breaking longstanding records. The other 90 or so players on the team are thereby marginalized, banished to further obscurity behind the shining stars. Even when commentators speak of the unheralded players, they point to the lesser-known offensive linemen or the secondary.
But none of the aforementioned would even be in the conversation if it were not for the most underrated person on the field: the punter. In his senior season, Boston College's Ryan Quigley just kept pushing until his name passed the lips of the ESPN announcers more than any other, save perhaps that Kuechly guy.
"The thing with punting that people tend not to understand is that it's such a different position, that you might go out and only play six plays a game, sometimes even less," Quigley said of the obscurity fostered by his unique position. "You're sitting on the sidelines, and you have to go out and be perfect for that one play. It's different in the way that if you play another position you can make a mistake and still be fine, but for us we're on such a short leash where we can't make mistakes. What we do is so crucial to the game through field position."
There are few in the nation better at the field position game than No. 46, who stands as the school's career record holder with 283 punting attempts over his four years.
Quigley's exploits came to the forefront as the Eagles surged down the stretch to finish this season strong. When BC fell to rival Notre Dame in an agonizingly close 16-14 contest on Nov. 19, Quigley was the most important Eagle in a game that was defined by field position. The senior boomed an incredible six of his nine punts inside the 20-yard line. In comparison, his Notre Dame counterpart only managed to stick one of eight inside the 20.
The following week at Miami, Quigley once again perfected the art of "coffin punting," as he placed an unbelievable five of his six punts inside the 20. Constantly backed up in its own zone, Miami only mustered 17 points as BC came away with a victory.
In these last two games of Quigley's distinguished college career, the Little River, S.C. native was honored as a back-to-back ACC Player of the Week.
Unlike most of the other honorees on that list, in high school Quigley did not quite have his mind made up on his position, or even his sport. All Quigley knew was that he wanted to play a Division I sport in college.
"I knew I wanted to play a Division I sport and these days you have to be really tall or really fast, and that didn't exactly describe me," Quigley said. "I got into punting because one day at practice [in high school] our coach asked if anyone could punt. I had played soccer and so he gave me the job. The rest is history."
Even then, the newly-minted kicker was not so sure that his future was going to be in punting. He is quick to thank those people back home in South Carolina who kept him focused, because it just did not appeal to a high school student as the most glamorous way to pursue Division I athletics.
"Some people back at home told me I had a future as a punter, and I'm very thankful for those people and the people who gave me the opportunity to come here," Quigley said. "I don't know if I would've pursued it otherwise, but it worked out great."
"Great" is an effective adjective to describe the early trials and tribulations for Quigley as an Eagle. After choosing BC, he started almost right away as a true freshman.
Handling kickoff duties as well as punting, he excelled in big games like the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech and the Music City Bowl versus Vanderbilt. In a season that he called one "full of learning experiences," Quigley got a full taste of what it was like to kick in the ACC and on a national stage.
"The toughest thing for me to learn was how to have a bad kick and move on to the next one," he said of the learning curve. "I'm going to make mistakes as a punter, but the next-kick mentality is the most important thing."
His performance only improved over the next two years, under the tutelage of former BC kicker Steve Aponavicius, who is the holder of the program's all-time points record. Quigley called Aponavicius an older brother-like figure to him and someone who helped mold him into the football player he is today.
In his sophomore year, Quigley received some unexpected attention from the student body. That was the year in which a group of BC freshmen started the "Quigley for Heisman" campaign, with the following mission statement: "We all know that Boston College was way under-ranked coming into the 2009 season, but not everyone knows that their success can be attributed to one man—Ryan Quigley. No. 46 has won BC football games and our hearts and should clearly be winning the race for Heisman."
While he never joined the likes of Doug Flutie in the annals of New York's Downtown Athletic Club, Quigley's punting days may not yet be over.