Prasky punts his way to the top
Published: Friday, October 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 02:10
His hands are dry. Too dry to catch the ball on the snap and handle it properly for the drop.
So he licks his hands. Right, left, right and then smacks them together. He shakes out his legs and licks his hands one more time. It’s the same routine each time Brad Prasky steps on the field with the special teams unit. He puts his hands out in front of him, slightly above waist height and calls out, signifying he is ready.
The long snapper digs his feet into the turf and suddenly whips the ball back through his legs 15 yards to where Prasky is waiting. The opposing Rhode Island Rams across the line of scrimmage charge. Pads smack, helmets crack as the blockers engage with the giant defensive linemen.
Prasky has less than three seconds to get the ball, drop it and boot the brown lemon down the field before a swarm of light blue and white converges him on.
The ball hits hands, the moisture sinking into the leather and he turns the ball laces up so quickly no would notice. Prasky steps forward; one, two, kick! The football shoots up and moves downfield, spiraling on a diagonal axis. The ball sails 29 yards across the field and lands in the hands of the Rhode Island receiver, who downs it at the 17-yard line.
The fact that the ball landed inside the 20-yard line is satisfying for spectators, but Prasky knows down to the tee what went wrong and what went right with the kick.
He walks off the field and is greeted with a unique high-five from UNH placekicker Mike MacArthur, his fellow comrade in the kicking game.
Prasky finds a spot on the sideline and watches the game continue, waiting to be called upon again to perform his service.
Prasky is one of the top punters in the nation and has been recognized with honors such as the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week and the Sports Network Special Teams Player of the Week. He currently leads the conference in average punt distance (43.8 yards) and seven punts within the opponent’s 20-yard line. Not bad for a kid who started playing football as a sophomore in high school. Prasky’s success stands on a foundation comprising several key aspects including his driven determination to be the absolute best and a chance encounter that made all the difference in his life.
At six-foot-one and 191 pounds, Prasky has a slim and tall body with a long and clean-shaven face. At first glance, he may not look like a football player, but then what does a football player necessarily have to look like?
Prasky may seem like the odd man out when standing alongside the big and burly linemen that watch his back as he boots the pigskin 55 yards down the field. He looks like something Seamus O’Neil and Mike Coccia might have for supper. But his role on the team is critical and head coach Sean McDonnell is happy to have one of the best punters in the nation wearing UNH blue and silver.
Prasky’s parents didn’t want their son to play football at first. Although he is a well-built college athlete now, Prasky was a tall and skinny high school kid weighing around 160 pounds – not exactly the prototype for a football player. But by the time he was a sophomore, Prasky was able to convince his parents to let him throw on the shoulder pads and try the game out.
The only problem was Prasky’s high school, Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, did not have a football program. The idea of starting a program at the school had been a topic in town council debates, but as it stood, Prasky and other Groton-Dunstable students would have to play on the Ayer, Mass. high school team a town over.
Although Prasky was a sophomore, he played on the freshman team at Ayer because he had not played football before. Freshman football is a period where every player finds their niche on the team; what position fits them best. Prasky had always been good at kicking, “for some reason,” he said, and the day before the first freshman game in the fall of 2007, the coaches had the kids line up to take turns punting and to see who would be good enough to do the job the next day.
“Every kid lined up and I went up and kicked it and I was actually good at it,” Prasky said.
Just how good he was didn’t hit Prasky until the following Monday when the junior varsity game came around and he was informed by coaches he would be punting in that game as well.