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Punter proves his worth through career with Falcons

November 9, 2006

Senior Jovin Kroll has been playing football since he was in sixth grade, but has been a member of the UW-River Falls football team for the past five years, including his first season being red-shirted.

This season, Kroll’s hard work has paid off. Going into last weekend’s game against UW-La Crosse, he was the WIAC leader in punting.

“I think it’s really a culmination of five years of hard work,” head football coach John O’Grady said. “I remember having doubts if he’d ever be able to physically mature enough, but now he’s one of the best punters in our league.”

Even though Kroll has had success punting here at River Falls, he hasn’t always been focused on that position.

“I picked up the duties prior to my senior year of high school when our previous punter was forced out of school,” Kroll said. “Through high school I was a normal position player. It was only once I got to UWRF that I focused only on being a specialist.”

Kicking coach Tom Caflisch has been working with Kroll for five years.

“Jovin is one of the most coachable players I’ve ever worked with,” Caflisch said.

While most players only have one crucial role to fill on a team, O’Grady said that Kroll really helps out the team by holding the ball on all field goal and point after attempts for the Falcons.

Punters and kickers have a completely different role on the team than a defensive lineman or a wide receiver, and sometimes that makes it hard for them to feel comfortable with the rest of the team. However, O’Grady doesn’t think that’s an issue with Kroll.

“They all accept him as a football player,” O’Grady said.

Kroll knows that his skill and role on the team is unique in comparison to every other player.

“Punting is unlike every other position on the football field. You never know when you’re going to have to go onto the field and perform. You have to be constantly ready to go onto the field, even though that may only happen four or five times a game,” Kroll said.

Kroll also said that weather plays a role in a punter’s performance.

“Also, you have to be constantly aware of the elements. Conditions like wind speed and direction can not only affect where the ball travels, but how long it hangs up in the air and how high you try to hit it.”

But that’s not all that makes punting such a difficult role to fill.

“Another unique trait is that flexibility and technique are more important than strength. In a sport where the emphasis is on being bigger and faster, that is not the case with punting,” Kroll said. “The actual punt is such an individual activity that I’ve got to do perfect every time for positive results, but at the same time, it is totally dependent on the guys up front protecting.”

In Saturday’s loss to UW-La Crosse, Kroll had what may have been his worst game of the season, but O’Grady thought he bounced back well after having a punt blocked. He said that nothing fazes the experienced Kroll any more. It will affect him somewhat, but he doesn’t let it get to him.

This season, punting has been the strongest in recent Falcon football history and Kroll has been one of the most consistent players all season long.

“I think after doing this for four years you actually start to get into a consistent rhythm and your form starts to become identical every punt,” Kroll said. “However, there’s still a lot of punts I’d like to have a shot at hitting again. Coach Caflisch has really guided me in developing a consistent form and rhythm.”

The English major will finish up classes this fall and student teach in the spring. While he might not miss playing in each individual game, he will miss the memories he shared with his teammates.

Following his time at River Falls and student teaching, Kroll plans to get a job teaching English and is marry his fiancée Breena Lind in June.

“The most important person in my life is Breena. I’m really excited to get our lives rolling once I get done with classes this fall. I’d really like to thank her and my family for following our team around the state and the country for the last four or five years,” Kroll said. “My dad was instrumental in getting me involved with football at a young age. I’m sure I wouldn’t be playing here today if it weren’t for him.”

Kroll and the Falcons finish the season on Saturday against UW-Whitewater. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. at Ramer Field. Whitewater played for the national championship last year and is the defending WIAC champion.

“It’d be really nice to go out with a successful day Saturday,” Kroll said. “Win or lose, I’d just like to thank all the people who’ve supported us throughout the years. Though we don’t say it enough, we really appreciate it.”