Anytime a coach can add the best player in the nation at his position to a recruiting class, it is an accomplishment. Mark Dantonio has been adding talent to the MSU roster at a record pace, such a chance will present itself in the 2013 class.
He is already an All Ohio football player (punter/kicker), an honor reserved for the elite in one of the nation’s top producing states of college football talent. Named by “Top Kicker in America” as the #1 combo specialist in the nation. He is garnering major attention from the entire Big Ten, SEC, and as far away as the PAC 10.
He is Hunter Niswander. Standing 6’5” and weighing 210 pounds, he is already a big man for the position he plays. Niswander is from Peninsula, OH & Woodridge High School. Despite the accolades and attention, this young man has his eyes squarely on the Spartan Nation. We caught up with him recently.
After nailing 11 of 11 field goals off the ground, booting a kickoff through the goalpost for a touchback and nailing an 80-yard punt that rolled another 20 yards to make it an even 100-yard punt, this young man still feels like he has something to prove.
He has made an incredible 61 straight PAT’s, routinely hits field goals from over 50-yards, and had 18 touchbacks on kickoffs last season. The amazing thing about his kicking is that high school kickers are allowed to use a tee when they hit the PAT and field goals. Niswander kicks off the ground like he will have to do on college Saturdays.
Niswander told Spartan Nation about his choice to kick off the ground, “I figured I might as well get ready now.” Not bad for a young man who has nailed field goals from as far away as 65-yards!
During his junior season, Niswander dropped 23 punts inside the 20 and one of them from 80-yards away! His punts average 49.6 yards. Let me put that in perspective. Mark Dantonio’s goal for every MSU net punt is 38 yards. You do the math.
It is widely accepted in college football that if a punt hangs in the air (hang time) for 4.6 seconds that it will be fair caught. That is rarely hit with ANY consistency in college. Niswander consistently hits it on a regular basis between 4.5-4.8 seconds.
Mark Dantonio has said many times that the punt is the most important play in football and we all know the importance he places on special teams; a fact not lost on Niswander. He recently came up to an MSU spring practice and left saying how impressed he was with the Spartans emphasis on special teams in practice. He went on to talk about the importance MSU places on special teams by saying, “Awesome attitude and I hope to exploit it.”
His primary recruiter is Pat Narduzzi, and Niswander has already found a kindred spirit with him. “He is very nice and I loved the way he welcomed me. I love his attitude.” Those are all kind words, but for the young man who excels in the classroom like he does on the football field, what he sees with his own eyes while watching games and practices tells him more about Narduzzi then anything. “I love how he treats his players.”
With a 3.6 GPA and plans to enroll at whatever school he picks in January, Niswander is a hot commodity. He says he is open to “Wherever God has for me,” but admits, “I would love to be a Spartan.” His mother was raised here in Mid-Michigan, his grandmother lives here and is an alum, and it is in his blood.
So what does he think of MSU? “AWESOME! I just love the atmosphere Coach Dantonio has going on up there.” Not bad thoughts considering BCS schools all over the nation are pursuing him.
He will be camping at MSU in early June; a time that Mark Dantonio loves to hand out offers. He also knows that there will be other kickers and punters there, but he doesn’t seem to care. “I love competition.”
Like Dantonio, Niswander is not shy about his faith and loves how Mark Dantonio shares the same beliefs. He told Spartan Nation, “God has always been the first and foremost thing in my life. I have known the Lord since a young age and I love that it is emphasized heavily in the (Michigan State) system.”
For Niswander, the best compliment you can give him is that he fits the Dantonio system on the field, off the field and in every other way. Not many can say they are the nation’s best at their position and not many schools can say those players want to play for them.
The values, atmosphere and fit seem to be there for both Niswander and Coach Dantonio. Who knows, this could be a match made in heaven.