Josh Hubner thought he was prepared for the pressure cooker of the NFL Scouting Combine. But it was the volume, or lack thereof, that threw him temporarily off his game Friday.
“Nerve-wracking would be the first word I’d use to describe it,” said the former ASU punter, who was one of seven punters invited to the combine this week and next week in Indianapolis. “I’m so used to kicking in front of 50,000 or 60,000 screaming people, then I go out in front of a couple hundred guys just sitting there, dead quiet, watching me. I think I let my nerves get the better of me.”
In the first punting exercise of the day – two sets of four punts down the middle of the field to test leg strength – Hubner said he wasn’t at his best. But once the format turned to directional kicking, a staple in today’s NFL, Hubner was back on the game ASU fans saw with regularity last season.
Hubner had three punts to the left and three to the right, dropping all six inside the desired box marked on the field. He said he had a couple balls around 5.1 and 5.2 seconds of hang time, with most around 4.7 and 4.8.
“I could have had a better day booming the ball, but I know what I can do,” he said. “And I think I showed enough of that today.”
Hubner finished second in the FBS among punters with a 47.1-yard average on 52 punts last season. He also dropped an astounding 20 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. On the advice of ASU coach Todd Graham, Hubner transitioned from a three-step punter to a two-step punter to improve his NFL stock.
He said he has talked to seven NFL teams already at the combine – the Cardinals, Vikings, Lions, Browns, Raiders, Titans and Texans – with the first three all expressing interest in having him in for a private workout after ASU’s pro day on March 8.
Like other players, Hubner also took the Wunderlic test and was one of two punters to participate in the bench press, hitting 13 reps.
“They asked a lot of questions about my athleticism,” said Hubner, who was lauded for that attribute by his ASU teammates. “I hope it matters at my position.”
Hubner is one of three Sun Devils at the combine. Linebacker Brandon Magee will work out next week, and safety Keelan Johnson also is in attendance.
Hubner arrived in Indy on Tuesday and has spent most of his time “catching up on movies I haven’t seen in the hotel room.” He planned to explore downtown Indy on Friday night before heading home and preparing for his pro day.