When both place-kickers graduated from the University at Buffalo last year, it left a void in the special teams unit. So Peter Fardon went to the coaching staff and offered his services. After all, when he sent schools video of his skills from his rugby days in Australia, he offered examples of all types of kicking.
Head coach Jeff Quinn took him up on his offer and, now in his senior year with the Bulls football program, Fardon finds himself in a unique position -- battling for a job. Fardon, a 29-year old communication major, has been the team's starting punter since his freshman year of 2008. He also served as the holder for PATs and field goals. But since the spring, he's been adding field-goal kicking to his repertoire, hoping to earn yet another starting spot.
"In previous years I'm coming in, and doing the punting or holding and I've done it before," Fardon said. "This year, I'm in a totally different situation where every day is almost new. They're scripting out plays for us. Previously I've only had to worry about a holding situation or a punting situation, now I'm worried about a kicking situation, so it's definitely different."
Fardon doesn't have the job locked up. Freshman kicker Pat Clarke is in the hunt while senior punter Jacob Schum has been working on holding duties along with his punts. For Fardon, it's not so much about the competition for jobs as it is about pushing each other to create the best result for the team.
"I've been schooling Jake up on the holding situation and he's coming along real well," Fardon said. "I feel like we've got a good bond together on and off the field. You'd probably think with two punters going at it for the one spot there may be some friction or something like that, but we're all here just to win. This [is] my last year and Jake's last year and I definitely want a conference championship and a bowl appearance in my last go-round."
From Quinn's standpoint, Fardon's attitude is emblematic of what makes him a key contributor to the Buffalo program.
"Last year, he said, 'Coach, I want to have that opportunity to be that place-kicker for us and I'm going to work on it.' For a head football coach, those are great young men to have in your program," Quinn said. "He's a very determined young man and when you watch him practice, it's important to him. And when it's important to somebody, they're going to develop those skills necessary. I think Pete has certainly demonstrated that he's somebody that we're going to be looking at to be a place-kicker and a punter."
Since Clarke is a freshman and was not able to practice with the team until summer camp, Fardon took all the reps at kicker during spring practice. The mechanics of place-kicking are similar to those from his rugby background, though he has needed to get accustomed to the snap and hold. But learning something new has not only given him the opportunity to contribute to the team in more ways, but it has offered him a chance to hone his mental skills as well.
"You get to a point where you sort of feel like, 'Oh, I can do this. I know what I'm doing.' And the days blend into one another," Fardon said. "This has given me a little mental edge. I realized that place-kicking is finite. You either make it or you don't. Whereas punting is a little bit different. You can sometimes not have the greatest punt in the world but you still come up with a good situation.
"I found that since I started being involved with the PAT group whether it be as the holder or now the place-kicker, you stay in the game [mentally] longer. When you're a punter, and that's all you're doing, [your team] gets into field goal range and you sort of struggle to maybe stay in the game. I definitely feel that's helped."