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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Double trouble

By Tony Pizza

Rodney Dangerfield may have coined the phrase “I don’t get no respect,” but football kickers should have no problem adopting that phrase. Even though kickers take up every one of the top 20 all-time NFL scoring seats, many aren’t taken seriously because they don’t typically tackle or get tackled.

Louie Sakoda has made himself an exception to any rule that might apply to kickers. Not only is Sakoda a rare player that holds both the kicking and punting responsibilities for the Utes, but he also does a standout job performing both.

“He’s having a heck of a year. He’s just doing a great job both punting and placekicking,” U head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “There’s a lot on his plate; you know doing the punting and the placekicking is no easy task, and he’s handing it very well.”

In fact, Sakoda has been so effective that praise from coach Whittingham regarding Sakoda has been a mainstay in every post-game interview. The Mountain West Conference seems to agree, as it has voted Sakoda Special Teams Player of the Week twice in six weeks.

Sakoda, who is only a sophomore, has already developed into one of the best kicking weapons the U has seen in some time.

“Someone may not be coming to mind, but right now I can’t tell you of a person that has the job he’s done in both facets,” Whittingham said.

Sakoda is 8-for-9 on field-goal attempts in his first season of placekicking. His only miss came from beyond 50 yards in the waning seconds of the first half against TCU. Even more impressive than Sakoda’s 88-percent accuracy is the way Sakoda helps the Utes win the field-position game with his punts.

Sakoda, who also punted for Utah as a freshman, has been brilliant in his second season for the Utes. Sakoda is averaging 43.7 yards on 38 punts this season. Half of those punts have pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line, which is the biggest reason the Utes are doing so well in net punting.

“We’re in the top-five in the country in net-punt, primarily because of him and how he is kicking the ball. He’s just doing a remarkable job,” Whittingham said.

Sakoda’s punting performance has made him more than just a blip on the Ray Guy Watch List this season. The annual Ray Guy Award is handed out to the nation’s best punter, an honor that Sakoda is thrilled to be in contention for.

“It’s awesome; as a kicker it’s always the ultimate dream or the goal to make something like that, so its finally semi-being realized, so it’s awesome,” Sakoda said.

Sakoda is one of only eight underclassmen in contention for the award. Winning an award like this would unquestionably get Sakoda a lot of looks from NFL scouts when the soon-to-be 20-year-old gets into his senior season of football at the U. Sakoda knows the NFL is a long shot, but it still remains a dream for the U punter.

If Sakoda keeps doing what he has been doing, his chance might not be as far off as he thinks. Still, dreams of the NFL are still a possible light at the end of the tunnel for Sakoda, who was performing both placekicking and punting duties just two years ago for Branham High in San Jose, Calif. Sakoda also played three years of varsity baseball for the Bruins, during which time he helped his school take home the league title in 2004.

The U punter/place-kicker, who was also an Academic all-MWC selection last year, cites a national kicking competition as the reason he was recognized, which ultimately helped him make the decision to walk on to the U.

Sakoda made the U football team as a walk-on, but his skills quickly made him worthy of a football scholarship.

It is clear that Sakoda’s handling of both duties makes him an unconventional kicker, and the rest of the football team has yet to treat him as anything but a vital part of the team. The fact that Sakoda scores points and constantly puts the defense in good position makes it hard for anyone to treat him otherwise.

“You can only have so good of a game if you’re doing one or the other, but if you can do both (punting and kicking), you get to really shine,” Sakoda said. “I think our kicking team gets a lot of respect, and I live with an O-lineman and a quarterback, so that helps, too.”

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