Special teams ‘have serious impact’ on game

Javier Suarez

Mitchell Henton, punter, practices on the sidelines at the homecoming game against West Texas A&M Oct. 21, 2017. MSU won the game, called with about five minutes left on the clock due to weather, 45-3. Photo by Francisco Martinez

They stand on the sidelines, eyes turned to the field. Out of the two hour games, most of the time is spent next to the excitement, out of the way. Uneventful almost. Maybe practice a few kicks, a couple jumping jacks to keep the body warm and blood pumping. So between the jokes and laughter, they don’t see much action on the field.

Until they’re needed.

Only a select few are able to hone in on the pressure special team members have to preform under. For just a moment, the entire stadium zeros in on them. Memorial holds almost 15,000 seats, and every eye in that arena turns toward the special team in that moment all waiting to see the snap and watch the punt sail between the goal post.

The special team either sinks or swims, and the entire football team relies on that snap moment to finish strong.

Within 10 seconds, the special team members come in, do their job and make their way back to the sidelines, out of the way.

Until they’re needed again.


No. 14 Bobby Joe Nielsen, political science senior and heavily decorated with awards, plays as long snapper on the team. Nielsen is playing his fourth season for the team.

He has been an honorable mention for the All-Lone Star conference for the last three years. One of his best plays came against Tarleton State when he made a tackle.


No. 38 Jacob “Jake” Rowland, mechanical engineering freshman, took his place as a kicker for the football team this season.

“I played soccer my whole life and I felt like that would help my chances at making a football team,” Rowland said. “That was a huge reason why I decided to try out for the kicker position in the eighth grade. I figured my soccer skills would easily translate on the football field and, thankfully, they did.”

“My junior year in high school I got put on the varsity team and in the third game of the season, with three seconds left, I kicked the game-winning field goal. It was a very surreal experience because the crowd got really quiet then all of a sudden everyone started cheering loudly. I also kicked a 48-yard field goal which turned out to break the record at Legacy High School for longest field goal made.”


No. 42 Drew MacKay, freshman place kicker, said he is ready to leave his mark. Coming in from Dallas Christian High School with a well-developed record, MacKay earned second-team TAAPS Division II All-State honors converting 75-of-77 PAT’s and was three-for-four on field goal attempts as a senior.

Though he has only played three games this season MacKay said he is excited to get more playing time.


No. 45 Alex Morgan-Anderson, general business sophomore, serves as a punter for the football team.

“When you do your job correctly the team loves you, but if you fail at your job the team hates you,” Morgan-Anderson, a graduate of Weatherford High School where he recorded the longest punt in school history with a 63-yard boot and earned academic all-state honors, said. “I started punting for the school last year — so this will be my second season being an MSU punter. Being a part of the special teams is more mentally laboring than it is physically laboring because your form has to be correct and precise every time you step up to kick the ball. It’s not just a physical battle between one person and another, but it’s a battle between you and the ball.”


No. 82 Jaron Imbriani, sports and leisure sophomore, said, “In total, this is my sixth year being a specialist. I played soccer my whole life before school athletics, so I figured kicking a football would be just as easy. And it turned out it was easy. My soccer skills helped me make the transition to the football field with ease and that’s when I realized that kicking just came naturally for me.”

From San Bernardino, Calif., Imbriani said, “The best play I’ve made was an onside kick we recovered against Eastern New Mexico. We, the specialists, have a serious impact on the game. One bad kick, snap, or punt can impact our score very easily. The rest of the team seriously counts on us. Being a specialist, you have to get used to the whole team hating you, or loving you, depending on how we play.”


No. 84 Mitchell Henton, mechanical engineering senior, is the leader on special teams. He graduated from Lake Highlands High School Dallas and has been on the team for five years and has been named All-Lone Star Conference for the last three year.

“What makes being a specialist interesting for me is when you hit a huge punt and you watch the ball turn over in a perfect spiral and listen to the crowd ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at your punt, and you flip the field for your team and give the other team a long field to work with,” Henton said.

“My most memorable play was probably my second year here. I pinned the ball on the 2-yard line after having my first ever punt for MSU blocked.”

Special teams are on the field during kicking plays.

Kicker (K)

Also called the “placekicker,” a kicker handles kickoffs, extra points and field goal attempts. All three situations require the kicker to kick the ball off of the ground, either from the hands of a holder or off of a tee. Some teams will employ two kickers: one kicks extra points and field goals, and the other kicks, known as the kickoff specialist, handles kickoffs. Most however use a single kicker for both jobs, and rarely, the same player may also punt.

  • 38 Jacob Rowland
  • 42 Drew Mackay
  • 45 Alex Morgan-Anderson
  • 82 Jaron Imbriani

Long snapper (LS)

A specialized center who snaps the ball directly to the holder or punter. This player is usually distinct from the regular center, as the ball often has to be snapped much farther back on kicking plays.

14 Bobby Joe Nielsen

Punter (P)

Usually lines up 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage (this distance has to be shortened to avoid being on or behind the end line). The punter, upon receiving the snap, drops the ball and kicks it from the air. This is usually done only on fourth down, and is done to relinquish possession to the defensive team as far downfield as possible.

  • 45 Alex Morgan-Anderson
  • 82 Jaron Imbriani
  • 84 Mitchell Henton

Field goal

To score a field goal the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. A field goal is worth three points.

Extra point

Also known as a point(s) after touchdown, PAT, the extra point kicked after a touchdown is worth one point.