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Alec Vozenilek, who had a 77-yard punt against Pitt, is on the Cavs' 12-player leadership council.
JEANINE LEECH | University of Virginia
Virginia's Alec Vozenilek punts against Pittsburgh on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Criticism of Virginia’s special teams following a 14-3 loss to Pittsburgh needed to be more specific.
UVa’s inability to field punts set an early tone at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, but one of the big reasons the Cavaliers stayed in the game was Alec Vozenilek’s punting.
Vozenilek, a fourth-year junior from St. Christopher’s in Richmond, was named the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week by the Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council.
Vozenilek averaged 46.6 yards on nine punts, including a 77-yarder that was the longest by a UVa punter in 19 years.
“He’s probably one of the hardest-working guys on this football team when it comes to the weight room, when it comes to everything you expect a player to be not only on the field but off the field,” UVa coach Mike London said earlier this week.
In fact, London recently ran into his second-year specialist, who he refers to as Vozey, at a decidedly non-football-related event.
“I saw him come out of the Taylor Swift concert with a tight spandex shirt on a couple of weeks ago,” said London, who quickly noted the coach was only on the premises to pick up his daughter.
First-year special-teams coach Larry Lewis refers to Vozenilek as “Voz.” The key to pronouncing the full name is getting the “Vo” out early, then following with “Zenilek.”
Vozenilek had four punts of 50 or more yards against Pittsburgh, as well as a 49-yarder and a 46-yarder.
“We were told that it was one of the toughest places in the NFL to kick and punt, especially on the side where I was,” said Vozenilek, who had his back to the open end of Heinz Field. “I guess it was a pretty calm day with the wind coming off the water.”
With the Ohio River in the background, Vozenilek caught Matt Fortin’s snap near the goal-line and his punt didn’t stop till it was downed at the Panthers’ 10-yard line.
“You’re not out there doing the math,” Vozenilek said. “When I came back to the bench, I went to grab a drink of water and one of the equipment managers said, ‘Dude, that was like an 80-yard punt.’ All I could say was ‘Wow.’ ”
Vozenilek’s longest punt in UVa’s first three games was a 53-yarder against Oregon and he earlier had a 50-yarder against BYU. In 2012, his first season as the Cavaliers’ full-time punter, he had a 57-yarder.
An 80-yard punt by Sam Mathis in 1923 has stood as the longest in school history for 90 years. Vozenilek’s 77-yarder was the fourth-longest in UVa history, the fourth-longest in the nation this year and the longest in the ACC this year.
Vozenilek, a member of UVa’s 12-player leadership council, was awarded a scholarship before the season.
“He was selected by his teammates because they saw what type of person he is, how he represents this program,” London said.
Vozenilek’s mother was a college tennis player at North Carolina, but he comes from a UVa family. His grandfather is a UVa alumnus and had Virginia season’s tickets, as did his godfather. His brother was a walk-on member of the UVa men’s basketball team for one year.
“I wasn’t sure where I’d end up,” he said. “When I found out I had an opportunity to go to Virginia, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.”
Vozenilek was redshirted in 2010 and sat behind Jimmy Howell in 2011. He was listed as a place-kicker on the Cavaliers Chick-fil-A Bowl roster, and there was no second punter listed behind Howell.
Seven-time Pro Bowl punter Ray Guy, after whom the award is named, was a collegiate All-American at Southern Mississippi who was the first kicking specialist ever to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Guy, who is a finalist for the 2014 Pro Football Hall, annually has conducted a camp in the Alexandria area that Vozenilek attended in high school.
“Really, those are the only camps I ever went to,” Vozenilek said. “He was there and he was actually working the camp. I don’t know how many [other] people have gotten this award who can say they’ve met Ray Guy.”
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