When it comes to thinking about what position on a football team might be likely to become involved in a road race, punter probably wouldn’t come to mind.
Yet Brian Moorman of the Buffalo Bills isn’t just another punter.
Moorman, considered one of the most athletic punters in the National Football League for years, had a distinguished time as a track standout. That makes him and his P.U.N.T. Foundation a good fit to host the Blackbird 8K Race on Wednesday.
“I started running track in the sixth grade. They let the sixth-graders run with the junior high kids in track,” Moorman said. “I started playing football in seventh grade when I started middle school.”
Moorman says he “did a little bit of everything” on the track team, but his specialty was the 400 hurdles. He was a two-time state champion in the hurdles in Sedgwick, Kan. Along the way, he became a punter.
“It wasn’t until senior year,” Moorman said. “It was a small school, and they always let the senior do the punting. I did the kicking.”
From there it was on to Pittsburg State University, where he won three straight NCAA Division II championships in the 400 hurdles. He walked on as a kicker, and became a two-time All-American as a punter.
Did running help his punting, or did punting help his running?
“I think running helped punting more. It’s gotten me where I am, and helped me stay in the game,” Moorman said.
He joined the Bills in 2001, and is generally considered the best punter in team history. Moorman established a foundation in 2004, and wanted to stage some sort of fundraising event.
“The last couple of years, we’ve ramped up things,” he said. “We’re here to stay; it’s been a decade. We wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids.
“We did a triathlon for a couple of years, but I wanted to try something different. We were at a loss for what to do, and I said, ‘Let’s do a run.’ We created a family event with a walk attached. If someone doesn’t want to run, he or she can walk. It’s great.”
There’s one obvious question about a race: How long should it be? That was easy for Moorman, who wears No. 8 for the Bills.
“When I went to Seattle at first, they gave it to me as an undrafted rookie free agent,” he said. “They didn’t have it in Europe, where I wore No. 2 and No. 10. But they gave me No. 8 here, and I thought that was really cool and stuck with it. … I know 8-kilometer runs have become popular, and I thought that was perfect.”
Last year at this time, Moorman and his foundation set up the initial running of the event in Orchard Park, even though he wasn’t a member of the Bills any longer. But when Moorman came back to the team last season, he was treated as if a member of the family had returned home.
“I can’t say enough about the good things about the fans and how they’ve treated me. Running back through the tunnel here when I came back, that was probably the best moment of my career,” Moorman said. “There’s nothing better than seeing the support for me, and the support for the foundation. That’s what’s important to Amber and me.”
The event benefits families who are fighting pediatric cancer. It will be held at the Orchard Park Sports Complex. Moorman is hoping that Year Two will be bigger and better than Year One.
As to whether he’ll run the 5-mile distance again, Moorman doesn’t know if he’s up for a repeat performance. After all, football players usually don’t have to run too far at once in a game; it’s all about covering relatively short distances quickly.
“I’m not positive,” he said about a second long-distance jaunt. “My wife isn’t a distance runner, and she laced up her shoes and did it. I can’t believe I did it last year. It’s not that bad. You don’t have to run the whole thing. We just want to get people to come out and enjoy the evening.”
• Girls on the Run 5K, University at Buffalo/North Campus, 9:30 a.m. today, 645-6815.
• Blackbird 8K, 6909 Milestrip Road in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 316-7013.
• OLSH 5K, 3148 Abbott Road in Orchard Park, 6 p.m. Thursday, 445-5022.
• Buffalo Orienteering Club 10K Trail Run, Sprague Brook Park in Glenwood, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 652-8727.
• MMA 5K, 88 Red Jacket Parkway in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 713-5654.
• Woods Walk & Trail Run, various, 1420 Yubadam Road in Portville, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, 933-0187.
• Safety Village Dash-N-Bash 5K, 2695 Route 394 in Ashville, 9 a.m. Saturday, 640-3645.
• Ripley’s Race to Wellness 5K, 1 Park Ave. in Ripley, 9 a.m. Saturday, 736-2631 x240.
• Race for the Cure, 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, 866-1522.
• Love Everybody 5K, 250 Northwood Ave. in West Seneca, 6 p.m. Saturday, 771-3076.
• Tim Oehmler 5K for Kidneys, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. on June 15, (518) 533-7880.