BOZEMAN, Montana — Jered Padmos has spent the last few summers working at the clubhouse at Bridger Creek Golf Club in Bozeman. During the peak season, the Montana State senior gets to play a few rounds a week.
By the end of this summer, a season trademarked by cooler than normal temperatures and evening rainstorms more often than not meant plush greens and ideal conditions. Padmos took full advantage, reaching the low 70s during his best rounds.
Every time Padmos lines up to hit a shot into the green, his primary craft begins to shift from the back of his mind to the forefront. The Montana State punter thinks of the trash cans he and his specialist teammates line up around Bobcat Stadium during summer workouts. Or he imagines aiming for the big numbers outside the hash marks with a football rather than letting the green he’s aiming for intimidate him.
It turns out, hitting a pitching wedge at a pin is very similar to trying to pin an opponent deep with a punt.
“Golf is just as mental as kicking and punting,” Padmos said. “You can’t let a bad shot carry over to the next shot. If you have a bad punt, you have to just let it out of your mind and move along to the next one.”
The Boulder native and former multi-sport standout at Jefferson County High has nearly mastered the art of roll punting. During his freshman year, Padmos gave up just 62 return yards on 61 punts, pinning opponents deep consistently. In 178 career punts, Padmos has allowed 368 total punt return yards, or roughly two yards per return.
That accuracy and efficiency combined with the unorthodox and unpredictable nature of where the ball will roll after it lands off of Padmos’ foot has made him one of the sneakiest weapons on the Big Sky Conference.
“He is honestly one of the best weapons they have,” Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum said after Padmos pinned his team inside the 20 three times in five punts, averaging 44 yards per boot on a blustery afternoon in which MSU pulled out a 30-22 victory.
Like his golf swing, Padmos’ rugby-style accuracy has been honed through relentless repetition.
“With the rugby style, it’s all about placement thing and that’s all repetition,” Padmos said. “With traditional punting, it’s leg strength and leg speed along with placement. The big thing with rugby is putting it into the right spot and allowing it to do what it naturally does. “
When MSU special teams coordinator B.J. Robertson knows Montana State is getting close to punting, he asks himself an array of questions.
“What’s the wind doing?
“Are we going with the wind, are we trying to cut it with through the wind?
“Who’s the returner?
“Is it somebody we feel we can contain or is it a returner at all costs we want to keep the ball away from him?
“ Where are we on the field? Do we want to back them up or is it a pin situation?
Regardless of the question, the answer is always Padmos.
“There’s a lot of little factors that go into it but at the end of the day, it’s about where does Jered feel comfortable,” Robertson said in August. “And when he’s comfortable, he puts the ball literally wherever he wants.”
Padmos is far from orthodox. Entering his sophomore season, he tried to become a “more traditional punter”. But MSU head coach Jeff Choate, himself a renowned special teams guru, brought Padmos into his office and told Padmos “to go back to my roots.”
The style originated when Padmos’ high school coach learned the option at an all-star game. Padmos had previously played soccer (along with golf, basketball, track and football growing up in the small Montana town) so the “drop” it takes to rugby punt and the angles of the punter’s foot came to him easily.
Although the style is not completely uncommon for college football, the level at which Padmos has managed rugby punting is elite. He can drop the ball from several different angles, kicking the ball off of different parts of his foot, sending spirals screaming through the air or punting the ball with the nose-diving at the turf. He has a variety of “drops” to initiate the action and his unusual skill keeps returners guessing.
“I really don’t think he gets enough credit,” Choate said. “In terms of fulfilling his specific role, he is one of the most consistently players we have had.”
Padmos’ senior season began in a sweltering heat in Lubbock against Texas Tech. While many of the Bobcats looked a step slow against one of the Big XII’s fastest teams, the small-town Montana punter hardly looked out of place.
Padmos punted the ball nine times for an eye-popping total of 463 yards. He averaged 51.4 yards per boot, skying or rolling six different punts more than half the length of the field. He notched a touchback, a fair catch, pinned Texas Tech inside the 20 three times and notched a long of 63 yards.
“The biggest difference this year is the sky punts,” Robertson said. “But there’s times when you are backed up that you are going to sky it. He has added quite a bit of hang times on those. He’s been a plus-40 sky guy. He still have his pitching wedge as far as his roll out but now he can boom it too. I can’t compliment him enough.”
Padmos earned second-team All-Big Sky honors as a sophomore in 2017 when he led the league in net punting. Last season, despite allowing just 2.1 yards per return on 66 punts, he was ignored in the all-conference voting.
In August four punters from the Big Sky Conference were named to the FCS Punter of the Year preseason watch list. Padmos was not one of them. Yet Padmos is not caught up in any of those sort of accolades.
The humble, friendly senior is quick to deflect credit, instead passing it on to his punt coverage teammates, particularly “gunners” like Logan Jones, Ty Okada and James Campbell along with other special teams stalwarts like Chad Kanow and Callahan O’Reilly. He also acknowledges his long snappers, Rocky Hogue and Logan McDonald, making an accurate punt when he says, “One of the biggest compliments you can give a snapper is if you never call their name.”
Padmos credits his multi-sport background before college for helping his “mental game continue to be strong and confidence because I know I can perform.”
After a stellar start to his senior year, Padmos is optimistic he can maintain that belief in his performance as he plays his final season for the Bobcats.
“It’s been fast,” Padmos said. “You never think this will come. You train all year round and how slow that goes, but this time of year, you snap your fingers and it’s gone. Now I’m a senior and I am trying to make the most of it.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.