For the first time in 15 years, the Kansas City Chiefs will enter an upcoming season with a starting punter other than Dustin Colquitt, who the team released last week.
Colquitt’s expected replacement is Tommy Townsend, the undrafted rookie out of Florida who the Chiefs reportedly paid $82,500 guaranteed, including a $7,500 signing bonus. Colquitt explained on 610 Sports Radio that he felt his release came down to the Chiefs securing Townsend.
Townsend will compete with second-year punter Tyler Newsome for the team’s starting role this training camp, but the financial commitment plus Colquitt’s release indicate it is his job to lose.
“It definitely meant a lot,” said Townsend on a Zoom conference call on Wednesday. “[The Chiefs] have been with Dustin for a really long time. He’s a guy that has done everything the right way, so the biggest thing for me is — I’m just trying to make a name for myself and become my own person, so that’s what I’m really excited for.”
Fortunately for Townsend, this won’t be the first time in his life in which he will be asked to live up to lofty expectations.
“I think I did that at Florida,” Townsend recalled. “My (older) brother [Johnny Townsend] — he led the country in punting average for two seasons before coming out, and he was a legend at Florida, so I had to come in and step into his shoes and perform and do really well. I think I did a decent job stepping in and filling his shoes.”
Johnny was actually the reason Tommy began punting in the first place.
“It all kind of started off Johnny’s junior year of high school, his team needed a punter,” Tommy explained. “He went out there, he tried out and he got the spot. One of my dad’s friends, he actually punted for FSU back in the day and Johnny went and got a couple lessons with him. As he started going through the recruiting process, he started picking up some offers.
“I kind of decided, ‘You know, I can do this too. Why can’t I do it?’ So, I kind of followed in his footsteps and here we are. It’s pretty crazy, looking back as a kid, I can’t say that I ever would have thought that I would be a punter in the place I am now. It’s kind of cool how everything worked out.”
Johnny was drafted to the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft (he is currently a free agent), leaving the Florida job to Tommy. In 2019 as a redshirt senior, he averaged 44.0 yards per punt, forcing 21 fair catches on 42 punts and placing 20 inside the 20-yard line.
And that is how he became coveted by special teams coordinator Dave Toub, general manager Brett Veach and the Chiefs.
“I’m really excited for the chance to step in after a guy like Dustin — he’s an absolute legend,” added Townsend. “It’s exciting to have the chance to try and live up to a standard that he’s set. That’s something that doesn’t scare me. It excites me. To me, it’s an opportunity to try and do what he’s done.”
What likely made the Chiefs even more comfortable to make the move from the 38-year-old to the 23-year-old was Townsend’s ability to serve as the Chiefs’ holder on day one.
“I’ve been holding since high school,” said Townsend. “It’s something that I’m fairly confident in. Like I said, I’ve been a holder since high school, and I also held the two seasons that I played at Florida and we did pretty well there.”
Townsend has already been in touch with kicker Harrison Butker and long snapper James Winchester as part of the Chiefs’ virtual offseason, and he said he hopes to quickly create a “really good, smooth, efficient operation.”
In addition to a strong, accurate leg and an ability to hold, Townsend brings his own flavor to the game in the form of a willingness to run fakes if called upon. One of his most memorable college moments came on a fake punt against Vanderbilt in 2018 when he dashed up the field for an 18-yard gain.
The fourth-down run kept an eventual scoring drive alive, and Florida came back to win, 37-27.
“I’ve always had a little bit of fire as a football player — growing up, I played running back. And then high school, I played corner and safety. I’ve always been pretty aggressive, and that’s one thing that I think I have — in my mind, in advantages.
“I think I’m a little more aggressive than the typical punter. I come at punting with a different mindset — just an attacking mindset.”
That type of attitude sounds familiar — and should sit well with the Patrick Mahomes Chiefs.