Throughout his youth, Tyler Grassman shared the common vision of many a football player growing up in Columbus, Ohio. He yearned to play for the Buckeyes some day and experience what it’s like to play college football in the famous Horseshoe that is Ohio Stadium.
Grassman couldn’t overcome the long odds. Instead of becoming the punter at Ohio State he became the punter at UB. But as good fortune will have it, he’ll have his opportunity to play in the Shoe a week from Saturday as the Bulls open their season against the second-ranked Buckeyes.
“I’ve been dreaming of this game,” Grassman, a sophomore, said Wednesday. “I’ve had so many dreams of it. I grew up around Ohio State and I grew up a fan and I grew up wanting to play in that Shoe. Once I came here all that changed. I love it here, and this is my new home. It’s just kind of cool to go back and play in front of the home crowd and just to go back to where I’ve always wanted to play.”
Grassman had a solid freshman season as UB’s punter but there seemed more to his game once training camp commenced 2½ weeks ago. There seemed more height and depth to his punts as he worked with the other specialists on the sideline. He nailed one with a little wind at his back that covered some 75 yards in the air. The credit, Grassman said, goes to Zach Duval, UB’s strength and conditioning coach.
“Coach Duval and all of our strength coaches really took us specialists aside this year and really focused on different muscles that we never really worked before,” Grassman said. “They took us in and worked on our hips and it just seems like we got stronger legs and it seems like we’ve all been hitting the ball a lot better from it. I owe that all to the coaches.
“I have been getting a little better explosion off the ball off my foot. Like everyone says, hard work pays off and I really feel like the strength coaches pushed us to put in that hard work.”
During his seasons with the Bills, punter Brian Moorman talked about how it’s paramount for a punter or kicker to hone the core muscles. Moorman said those muscle groups factor into a kick far more than a casual observer would realize. Grassman concurs.
“Punting, it works so much more than you would think,” he said. “After a day of punting you’ll be sore in your core, you’ll be sore in your hips, you’ll be sore in your quads. It works everything. So you really got to hit that in the weight room while you’re in the offseason so that now it can be able to help you.”
Grassman averaged 34.9 yards per punt his freshman year with a long of 58. He forced 28 fair catches and placed 19 of his 80 kicks inside the 20. He’ll be looking to improve upon those numbers this year beginning on his field of dreams.
“I’ve punted in there before for their camps but I’ve never played a game in there so I’m excited for it, and I know my family is, and I know our whole team is,” Grassman said. “It seems like we’re ready.”