The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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I By Andy Reid f Brady Hoke and the offensive coaching staff had their way, Will Hagerup would never get the chance to perform the singular task he has dedicated much of his life to. However, the Wolverines, like all offenses, are not successful on every drive. For a few fleeting moments every Saturday, Hagerup will trot onto the field, catch a long snap, try to perfectly time the drop with his naturally long and swift gait, and launch a punt toward an awaiting opponent. It may take just a few seconds, and most of the 110,000 fans in Michigan Stadium will pay little attention to the one-play gap between offense and defense. This, though, is Hagerup���s passion. This is what he loves. Every time his number is called, Hagerup thinks, ���I want to be the best punter in the country every year. By doing that, I���ll give my defense the best chance to succeed.��� The finished product �����those aerial bombs on Saturdays ����� is the amalgamation of an incredible amount of self-driven work that Hagerup has performed since he began competitively punting in his sophomore year at Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee, Wis. Punters, unlike quarterbacks or linebackers or wide receivers, usually work alone. For the last five years, Hagerup has punted at least five times a week for two hours at a time, repetitively kicking back and forth. ���In high school, my dad and I would punt until I felt like my leg was going to fall off,��� Hagerup said. ���You have to get those reps in. It���s such a precise skill. If I mess up once ��� even if I have a strong leg ��� no one is going to want to put me on the field. It���s something you have to work hard at on your own. It���s a lot of selfcoaching. ���When I go back to camps, I realize it���s such a specific skillset. You have to be weird to be a punter. You have to like being by yourself and working on this skill that most people don���t know much about. I think you���ll find that the guys that are serious about it Last season, Hagerup posted a 43.64-yard average on his punts, the second-best single-season average in program history among those with at least 30 punts. photo by lon horwedel definitely have a passion. If you don���t, it could be a potentially boring thing to work on.��� Hagerup���s self-described punting passion wasn���t a love-at-first-kick situation. When he was a freshman soccer player, he followed his brother, Chris, to the football practice field one afternoon. Hagerup had experimented with field goal kicking, and Chris was spending each afternoon punting by himself. So the two teamed up, and Chris convinced Will to try punting. ���We were just fooling around with the idea of me punting, and it was just awful the first time,��� Hagerup said. ���I really did not enjoy it. My form was A sophomore in 2007, Hagerup took over Whitefish Bay���s punting duties, replacing Chris who had just graduated and moved to Bloomington to punt for Indiana. By his junior year, he had improved enough to begin seriously considering punting at the next level. Every day, he would call Chris, and the two would talk shop. ���He helped tremendously. He put the idea in my mind, and then he helped not only with my punting and the physical aspects, but once I got into recruiting, he gave me a lot to think about,��� Hagerup said. ���I���ve punted with him so many times, and he knows exactly what I���m doing A Passion For Punting Back In The Lineup, Will Hagerup Provides A Boost To U-M���s Field Position way off, and I hit the ball 20 yards in the air. It was frustrating. I didn���t think I would ever punt again after that.��� As Hagerup got more involved with placekicking, he began attending camps across the country to refine his skills. At every camp, professional kicking coaches took one look at his 6-4, 225-pound frame and all had the same advice �����try punting. Remembering that first futile attempt at the task, Hagerup initially resisted. Finally, he gave in, and working at the camps, he learned the proper technique, and his love for punting flourished. ���That���s when I really started to work at it. The more I worked at it, I kept improving, and I was really enjoying it,��� he said. ���I thought it was cool, because most of the guys at the camps were kickers, and I was that weird guy who enjoyed punting. I enjoyed working on it.��� right and what I���m doing wrong.��� By his senior year, Hagerup was one of the best punters in the country, garnering scholarship offers from Michigan, Florida, Ohio State, Wisconsin and others. When he visited Ann Arbor, he loved the campus, the stadium, the academics and the football program. But one thing stood out above all else ����� every time Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, then a senior, took to the field, thousands of fans raised their hands above their heads, connecting their thumbs to make a ���Z��� for Zoltan. ���I always thought it was really cool that he was this figure that everyone knew, and I thought it was cool that it was a place that respected the position,��� Hagerup said ���I was excited that I could compete right away for the job and kick in front of all those people. It was a nice opportunity to follow a guy that will be remembered.��� Hagerup hasn���t yet achieved the November 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 41

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