Rinehart quietly makes an impact as Flashes’ punter

Photo courtesy of the Kent State Athletic Department.

Photo courtesy of the Kent State Athletic Department.

AJ Atkinson

A punter on a football team often takes the back stage, even behind the field goal kicker. For the Flashes’ punter and two-time all-conference selection, that is right where senior punter Matt Rinehart wants to be.

“I don’t like the glory,” said Rinehart. “I’m a little guy. I like to be off to the side and do my thing.”

Darrell Hazell, Kent State head coach, said Rinehart’s comment could not be truer.

“He’s so quiet,” Hazell laughed. “He doesn’t say a word. Other than punting, he’ll tell you he’d rather be in a tree hunting somewhere. He loves to hunt.”

The 5-foot-9 inch, 180-pound senior out of Dover, Ohio, is putting up monstrous numbers in his final season with the Flashes. After five games and 39 punts, Rinehart is averaging 43.4 yards per punt and has trapped opponents inside their 20-yard line in six out of nine attempts. His longest kick, 68 yards, came last weekend against Ohio. Rinehart finished that game averaging 50.4 yards per punt.

“He’s killing them,” Hazell said. “He’s really playing well. He’s doing a good job of kicking that thing and establishing good field position. We’re covering pretty good too. He’s been terrific.”

Though he likes to stay almost hidden on the team, Rinehart plays one of the more important positions on the football field.

“What he does is invaluable,” Hazell said. “It’s the only play from scrimmage where you can guarantee yourself 40 yards of field position. It’s the only play. That’s how valuable he is.”

Rinehart said what he is trying to do more of this year than he has in the past is stay more relaxed and not dwell on past mistakes as much. Instead of some players who listen to rap or hard rock to get them psyched for the game, Rinehart listens to country music singer Blake Shelton to calm himself down.

When he jogs out on the field, everything after that is in a rhythm. Rinehart said as long as he does not step into his blockers, he tunes everything else out.

“You have to just ignore it,” Rinehart said. “I can feel the rush, but I trust my blockers that they’re going to block it. I don’t notice it that much unless it’s obvious.”

So far this season, Rinehart has punted 39 times — the most of any Mid-American Conference opponent. Ball State is second with 30. Rinehart said he enjoys punting and likes it when he kicks the ball downfield a lot in a game, but has to hate it at the same time because it often means his team is struggling.

“I like to punt a lot, but it’s not a good day when I punt a lot,” Rinehart said. “It’s a love-hate.”

Ideally, the team hopes to use Rinehart less frequently, but continue getting the same results from him when called upon.

Rinehart and the Flashes (1-4, 0-1 MAC) will be in action this Saturday against Northern Illinois (2-3, 0-1) at 3:30 p.m. in Dekalb, Ill.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected] and @aj_atkinson.