We’ve come to the final entry in our Top 5 ProCanes series. It’s been an eye-opening experience for this author. Each position group has brought up nostalgic memories as we counted down some of UM’s all-time legends. This series has also opened my eyes to some names that I’ve underestimated or wasn’t aware of. Speaking of awareness, this part of our series will focus on special teams.
Hold that eye roll. If we’re talking about special teams stars from the University of Miami, you know that there’s plenty to draw from in this final countdown. Among the specialists in consideration, I’ve included placekickers and punters, along with punt and kick returners. As you know, Miami has gained some notoriety for being punter U. We know that South Florida speed translates to any location, so we’re more than prepared to name some of the games best returners.
*Transparency Moment — There are many a ProCane who have ventured into special teams at one time or another. But to avoid repeating the same names from other positional lists, I attempted to avoid ranking players who were better known for their achievements at a specified position. So that means no Ed Reed or Phillip Dorsett, sorry fam.
Michael Badgley — With a name like “Money Badger” you have to make the list. Michael Badgley left UM as the program’s all-time leading scorer and proficient placekicker. After originally signing with the Indianapolis Colts, Badgley caught on with the Los Angeles Chargers. As a rookie, he made 15 of his 16 field goal attempts and 27 of 28 extra point attempts in 10 games. It would be highly optimistic to count Badgley among the top five at this point, but should Badgley continue to be automatic when called upon, he’ll be there soon!
Pat O’Donnell — O’Donnell has been a good punter for the Chicago Bears since he was drafted by the team in 2014. The five-year veteran sports a 44.9 yards-per-punt average. As impressive at that is, let’s not forget that this punter put up 23 reps at 225 lbs during combine testing, illustrating that his muscles aren’t isolated to his lower half.
Tremain Mack — While ‘T-Mac’ was the popular moniker for former NBA star Tracy McGrady, Tremain Mack shared the label back in his heyday. A three-sport star at UM, Mack was a 4th round pick of the Cleveland Browns. Working as a free safety on defense, Mack’s greatest value was as a kick returner. The Texan’s best season came in 1999 when he racked up 1,382 return yards and a return TD. Good enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl!
This standout punter from Jupiter Florida, has carved out a prolonged career with the Atlanta Falcons. Since the “Dirty Birds” selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, this ProCane has been regarded as one of the most proficient players at his position. According to Pro Football Focus, Bosher has placed 173 of his 372 career punts inside the 20, with opponents returning only 44% of his punts. With a 4.54 hang time average, it’s no surprise that 137 of his punts were fair catches.
While the Falcons and their fan base appreciate those figures, we can all agree that Bosher lighting someone up on kickoff is highly entertaining. A skill Miami fans would kindly attribute to his time at the U.
Falcons punter Matt Bosher just made one of the hardest tackles of the season. pic.twitter.com/lstm5awBth— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 23, 2018
Net Average: 41
Yards- per-Punt Average: 4.57
So, the one player who makes an appearance on both this and our Top 5 Wide Receivers list is Santana Moss. The Miami Carol HS alum returned three punts for touchdowns over the course of his 14 seasons in the league. While most of his returns came during his days as a New York Jet, Moss averaged 16.5 and 11.1 yards-per-punt return in the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Moss was a threat with the ball in his hands, regardless of field position. While his career will be remembered for what he accomplished on offense, Moss’ contributions on special teams was an underappreciated element for his team.
Moss’ Punt Return Stats:
The University of Miami has always been synonymous with swagger. Much of that swagger comes from winning games, perfecting your craft and putting in the work to be the best at your position. It also comes with some of the natural talent and speed that is native to the South Florida area. The former Miami Senior High School standout had plenty of speed to burn as a member of the Buffalo Bills. An accomplished wide receiver in his own right, Parrish was a dynamic return specialist throughout his career. In 2007 and 2008, Parrish averaged 16.3 and 15.3 yards-per-return, respectively. Parrish finished with three TD returns over the course of his eight seasons in the league.
Able to cut on a dime and turn upfield for a big gain in an instance, Parrish and his 4.37 speed could be a blur with enough room. It didn’t take much for Parrish to turn an ill-fated play into a huge gain. Because of that acumen as a returner, he makes our specialist list.
Parrish’s Career Return Stats:
For 22 seasons, punter Jeff Feagles was the master of flipping field positions. Known for his career longevity, Feagles was the longtime standard at the position from the time he was signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots. It would be the first stop on an NFL journey that would see Feagles wear the uniform of five different teams (Patriots, Giants, Seahawks, Eagles and Cardinals). Feagles attended two Pro Bowls (1995 & 2008) and was a member of the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII team.
By the time Feagles hung up the cleats, he was the owner of a few records. The former Hurricane holds the record for most consecutive games played (352), most punts in a career (1,713), most punts inside the 20 in a career (497) and most punting yards in a career (71,211).
“Punters are people too” and Jeff Feagles would be chief among those people. He almost took the top spot in our Specialist Countdown.
Feagles’ Career Punting Stats:
Number of Punts: 1,713
Punt Average: 41.6
From punting G.O.A.T. to the greatest returner of all-time, Devin Hester takes the crown in our top five specialist countdown. Yes, the Riviera Beach, Florida, native did play receiver for the Bears and Falcons. However, there’s no disputing that Hester was at his most dangerous when he was fielding a punt or kick return. There’s just one rule for any team playing against No. 23.
DON’T KICK THE BALL TO DEVIN HESTER!
Many an opponent did not heed that warning as Hester continually fielded the ball, swerving by blocks and defenders. Regardless of where you were when the ball landed in Hester’s hands, the race was over before it even started. While speed and acceleration can get you out of a lot of jams, Hester was an artist as a returner. Allowing his canvas to set itself up, Hester would paint the field with slashes, dashes, jukes and hurdles, creating a masterpiece with each return.
I’ll include the numbers below, but let’s reminisce on the magic that is Devin Hester.
Hester’s Career Return Numbers:
Punt Returns: 315
Punt Return Yards: 3,695
Punt Return Touchdowns: 14
Yards-per-Punt Return: 11.7
Kick Returns: 295
Kick Return Yards: 7,333
Kick Return Touchdowns: 5
Yards-Per-Kick Return: 24.9
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!