Travis Coons is only the second player to handle all the kicking and punting duties at Washington in 45 years.
In 114 years of Washington football, few Huskies have kicked a football as often and as far in one season as Travis Coons.
How far? This far: 5,051 yards — or almost 2.9 miles.
How often? This often: 120 attempts.
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How a high-school safety and receiver became only the third Husky in 45 years to get all his kicks is an unlikely story of toughness, determination and work ethic.
The junior-college transfer, in something of a surprise, has handled all of Washington’s punting, kickoff and field goal and extra-point attempts since the fourth game of the season, a role he is likely to keep for the rest of the year.
Coons was the team’s kicker for the first three games before taking over punting duties in the fourth, becoming the first UW kicker to handle all of those responsibilities for most of a season since 1987, when Brandy Brownlee did it. Before that, no one had handled all the duties since Don Martin in 1967.
True freshman Korey Durkee was the punter early, and coach Steve Sarkisian anticipated duties would be split. Having a separate punter and kicker — and sometimes even a third player handling kickoffs — has become the norm throughout college football. Washington is the only Pac-12 school that has one kicker handling all of the main kicking duties.
“It’s not the ideal scenario for us, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said. “I wish we could break up those duties. But he’s the best at all three of them and we obviously want to give ourselves the best chance to be successful.”
How does Coons handle all of the work? A little mind over matter and lots of ice.
“Definitely ice up every day,” said Coons, who usually spends an hour or so each day in an ice bath.
But the 6 foot 2, 205-pounder from Alta Loma, Calif., wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I didn’t really expect it, but it’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “For me to get this opportunity is awesome.”
Coons signed with the Huskies in February as the Huskies searched for replacements after both starters, kicker Erik Folk and punter Kiel Rasp, graduated.
Coons played the previous two years at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., and initially committed to San Diego State. Then the Huskies called shortly before signing day.
“I always wanted to go to a Pac-12 school,” he said.
The Huskies return Durkee, a true freshman from Gig Harbor, and have a verbal commitment from kicker Cameron Van Winkle, a senior at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie.
That means Coons may only have this year to be a true triple-threat kicker.
“I thought he’s hung in well,” Sarkisian said. “It’s challenging to do all three, and fatigue can obviously set in.”
In fact, UW limits Coons’ kicks during the week, especially on the two days before games.
Coons said it’s as much a mental hurdle as physical.
“Definitely mental, because you get tired but you’ve just got to tell yourself that you can do it,” he said. “And once you tell yourself that, you just keep working at it and keep going and keep fighting and it eventually works out.”
Coons is 10th in the Pac-12 in punting at 38.4 yards per attempt, and hasn’t had as many field-goal attempts as has been typical for UW in recent years, making 6 of 8.
But he has a knack for coming through in critical moments. He recovered from a bobbled snap against Stanford to get off a 30-yard punt with his left foot and made a 30-yard field goal with 1:20 left for the winning points in a 20-17 upset of Oregon State. The high-school receiver and safety also threw a 16-yard pass against Portland State.
“He’s a great athlete,” Sarkisian said. “And he’s got a tough … mentality about him, which is always kind of cool to have in your kickers.”
• Senior cornerback Desmond Trufant was invited Wednesday to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. The Senior Bowl is arguably the top postseason all-star game to judge players for the NFL draft.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta