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