Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch will face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, marking the 20th straight year that a former Husker has played for an NFL championship.

AP photo

He has a better career passer rating than Joe Flacco or Colin Kaepernick. He has a better career yards-per-rush average than Frank Gore or Ray Rice.

Sam Koch also is one of the best punters in the NFL.

The Baltimore Ravens know they have the punting game set for next Sunday's Super Bowl.

Koch, born in Ulysses and raised in Seward, is the 15th native Nebraskan and the 54th former Husker to be on a Super Bowl team. 

“Just another game,” said the 30-year-old Koch, who is in his seventh year in the NFL. “We practice just the same, with a little extra time free because it’s two weeks from our win over New England to playing San Francisco."

And, no, he’s not working on his running game, even though he scored his first touchdown since high school on a fake field goal against the Raiders this season. Koch has a career rushing average of 8 yards per carry.

Ravens running back Rice said he was studying film on Koch’s touchdown run: “He really looked like he set up his blocks,” Rice told the Baltimore Sun.

Koch is not even practicing his throwing, even though he is 1-for-1 in career passing (in 2010) for 13 yards and a first down. He’s not all that concerned about improving his defense, even though he chased down Richard Crawford, the Washington kick returner known as the “Energizer Bunny.” Koch made up a lot of ground to prevent a touchdown return, and Crawford said, “I ran out of gas.”

Koch has plenty of fuel to burn.

He has his 6-foot-1, 218-pound body in better shape than when he was a four-sport star in Seward (football, basketball, soccer and baseball) or when he was punting for the Huskers.

After all, he's involved for a little more than 12 seconds a game -- considering the deep snap takes 0.8 seconds and the punt has to get off in 1.8 seconds or it likely will be blocked. Add in a few seconds at the end of each punt and he’s up to about five minutes a season for an annual salary of more than $1.5 million.

Koch simply is one of the best punters in the NFL. He averaged 47.1 yards per punt, put 34 percent inside the opponent's 20-yard line and had a net of 40.8 yards per punt this season. Ravens special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Koch has improved every season. The only thing between Koch and making the Pro Bowl is nine-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler of the Raiders.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he sees in Koch consistency and a decrease in bad punting games.

Koch has adapted to the pros.

“We brought him up to look when he was an eighth-grader and he was kicking the daylights out of things,” said former Seward coach Greg Welch. “As a ninth-grader, he was better, and soon he beat out a senior who was all-conference kicker the year before. We also played him at middle linebacker on defense and he de-cleated guys. On offense, he played fullback when somebody got hurt and we used him at center, guard and tackle, and he was great at all those positions.”

Koch adapted to the Huskers and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, presented to college football's top punter. He was a sixth-round NFL pick in 2006 and has played in 96 consecutive games.

As a pro, he started slowly.

“I was awful my first two years, but we got a new special-teams coach in here, I improved my drop and got a lot more consistent on my punts,” Koch said. “And we’ve added a few punts. There’s the drive — just kicking it as far as you can; the sky — as high as you can; right alley, left alley, outside the numbers, out of bounds, a knuckler and the rugby punt. I work on all of them and try to get as good as I can. Every punt is important.”

Koch compares it to pitching.

“You work on a pitch and sometimes the straight fastball isn’t everything,” he said. “You have to come up with changes and understand the nuances your team needs for a specific punt at a certain time.”

Koch plans to have his family — wife, Nikki; children Ryan, 14; Braxtyn, 8; and Kamdyn, 6; as well as his parents — on hand in New Orleans for the Super Bowl.

“I hope we win and get some time to celebrate,” Koch said. “It’s a chance to play in the biggest game of the year. That’s a long way from roofing and pouring concrete when I was done at Nebraska and waiting for the draft.

“But I guess I’ll always have something to fall back on, too.”

Reach Ken Hambleton at 402-473-7313 or


Ken grew up in Chicago and is a Doane College grad. His Mr. Sportsknowitall column appears Sundays, and he covers a variety of beats.

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