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SMITH: Jake Camarda

September 10, 2021 - 00:00
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With Jake Camarda being named to the Associated Press pre-season All-America team, there was an immediate flashback to Georgia’s most accomplished punters of the past.

There are many storied kickers to have worn the Red and Black, dating back the thirties when William Coleman Hartman was the incumbent.

Those long in the tooth with a recall of Hartman’s career would be persuaded that Hartman had to have the strongest leg of all UGA punters. His calf muscles were bigger than a small pine sapling which, perhaps, explains how he was able to punt a football a record 82 yards against Tulane in 1937. Hartman said his kick went out of bounds “on the fly” at the Tulane six-yard-line which means that, adding 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, his punt traveled 97 yards in the air, making it unquestionably the longest punt in Georgia history from toe to turf—or from kick to next contact, either a returner’s hands or terra firma.

When Spike Jones broke Hartman’s record with an 87-yard wind aided kick against Auburn in 1967, the old coach lobbied for an asterisk by Spike’s name in the record book because of gusting winds that afternoon. The line of scrimmage was the Georgia ten-yard line. Spike stood five yards deep in the end zone. In addition to an assist from the wind, Spike was the beneficiary of the most fortuitous bounce and roll a punter could experience. The ball tumbled perfectly.

“I don’t think Coach Hartman ever forgave me for breaking his record,” says Jones, who spent eight years playing in the National Football League. Jones’ name appears in the Bulldog record book five times in first or second place in various punting categories. He was certainly one of the Bulldogs’ greatest punters.

Hartman’s name remains in the record book for the most punts in a game, 14 versus Auburn in 1937. Spike is next in that category with 12 in the Auburn game of 1969. Spike (1968) and the late Don Golden (1972) hold the record for punting yards in a season with 3,092 yards.

Perhaps, a case could be made for Bobby Walden, a specialist who was capable of exceptional stardom at halfback, as Georgia most talented punter. He was such a versatile player in Cairo that Tennessee recruited him to play tailback in the Vols’ single wing system. With the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian League, before his NFL career began, he led the team in punting, rushing and receiving. In a 14-year NFL

In a 14-year NFL career, briefly with the Vikings, and later with the Steelers, he set multiple records for Pittsburgh and was the punter for the winning Super Bowl teams of 1974/75. He had thunder in his foot and still holds the record for punting average for a game: 63.0-yard average with three kicks for 189 yards versus Texas at Austin in 1958.

Golden, one of the many successful quarterbacks out of Valdosta, had a classic leg swing through the ball. He looked like Tom Weiskopf swinging a driver in his prime. You see Golden’s name listed in numerous punting records in the Bulldog football media guide. Another punter with frequent references in the record book is Drew Butler, who holds the record for punting average in a season with 48.1 in 2009.

The mark for punting yards for a career belongs to the laid back Gordon Ely-Kelso who would get the highest of marks for consistency. His record for career punting yardage is an amazing 9,140 and is likely to stand for a while.

Carmarda, from Norcross, is 6-2,180, with three varsity letters. He punted for an average of 57.7 yards versus South Carolina in 2019. He is a Ray Guy Award finalist, he is the holder for placement kicks unless he is kicking off himself, which he did for the last seven games last year.

He has always been a dedicated weight lifter, avidly following the protocols for his position and attributes that for his leg strength. He has constantly practiced his drop. When he was a lifeguard in the summer and there was weather warming, he would go practice his drop. He has always underscored fundamentals, stressing the basics for competency and improvement.

Entering the season, Camarda holds two records: net putting for a career with 40.8 and punting average for a career with 45.5. He is in second and third place in “net punting for a season.”

He is enjoying a sensational ride, with high fives from every direction. And don’t forget this. He could be somewhere in the NFL as we speak.