GREEN BAY – JK Scott had quite the first day in the NFL.
First, the Alabama punter and fifth-round draft pick signed his first pro contract. Then, he got to put on, for the first time, the uniform of the Packers team he grew up rooting for. Scott’s family, from Colorado, has a summer lake home in Wisconsin with several relatives on his dad’s side still residing in the state.
Moreover, he found out he’s the only remaining punter on Green Bay’s roster, after the Packers released incumbent Justin Vogel, eliminating the head-to-head competition that was anticipated during training camp and the preseason.
At the time Scott was interviewed following the first practice of rookie orientation on Friday, he said he didn’t know about Vogel, but he already had adopted the mindset of competition being an ongoing endeavor, regardless of the in-house circumstances.
“I’m just here to do the best that I can,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in the country that are good punters, and teams are always looking for the best guy, so for me I have to do everything I can to train right, to eat right, to sleep right and to kick right. Everything I can do to be the best.”
The Packers’ punting job for now is his, which is no surprise given the fifth-round investment Green Bay made in him last weekend. The Packers like his style and his pedigree, and he loved being chosen by Green Bay.
Not only did it excite all the family members, but to him it felt as right as when he chose Alabama from a handful of scholarship offers.
Consistency amidst steady progress marked Scott’s career for the Crimson Tide. A boost in hang time last season produced gross (43.0 yards) and net (42.3) averages that were nearly identical, because so few of his punts were returned.
Packers rookies did on-field work inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
Scott believes he’s consistent because he’s simple – two steps, big leg swing, plant foot never leaves the ground. “I don’t have a lot of wasted motion,” he said of his long-legged, flexible, 6-foot-5 frame.
He keeps it simple with the statistics, too, targeting his distance and hang time to match up numerically as best he can.
“If you’re going to hit a 45-yard punt, (you want) at least a 4.5(-second) hang time,” he said. “You don’t want to be hitting like 55-yard punts with a 4.5, because that’s when you start outkicking your coverage.
“The higher the distances, usually the higher the hang. If I’m going to hit a 50-yard punt, I want to hit a 5.0, at least.”
Another key to Scott’s success is his demeanor, and playing in the spotlight of college football’s premier program – and in three national championship games no less – never fazed him.
The lights of the NFL are no less bright, but Scott was truly enjoying himself on his first day in Green Bay rather than getting nervous.
“To be honest, there’s not that many nerves,” he said. “It’s just fun. It’s pretty relaxed, and that’s the way you want to be as a kicker and a punter. If I stay true to who I am as a punter, and my technique, I’ll be fine. The moment you start getting nervous and thinking about it, it can screw you up a little bit.”
A group of Packers draft picks took their 2018 headshots at Lambeau Field. Photos by Ryan Hartwig, packers.com
Kicking in the late-season cold weather of the NFC North might be a bit of an adjustment, though Scott did kick in some cold, snowy games as a high schooler in Colorado.
But he proved himself under pressure right away in 2014 as a true freshman at Alabama in his first national title game, booming seven punts for a single-game school record 55.0-yard average (53.6 net), with five dropped inside the 20 and two of them covering 73 and 65 yards.
He finished on a similarly high note, with three of six punts in last year’s national title game against Georgia going for 50-plus, two inside the 20.
“Playing in those big games I would say has given me a realization that nothing changes for me,” he said. “Honestly, playing in the national championship, the way I was experiencing it, it was so fun.
“But in terms of my preparation, nothing changed, and in terms of my mindset, nothing changed. So I guess punting in those big games gave me the confidence that every game I go into, it’s going to be the same.”
If he can carry that over into his pro career, the Packers will have as few worries as Scott apparently has. If there’s such a thing as familiar surroundings for a Colorado kid now coming from Alabama, this is it.
“We were big Green Bay Packers fans growing up,” he said. “To come here is such a blessing. It’s an honor. I’m just thankful to be here.”