Linehan eager to increase punting distance

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Bryan Pearson
Jonny Linehan high fives fans after the game against Toledo on Sep. 30, 2016. BYU won the game 55-53. (Bryan Pearson)

Distance might be a good way to describe Jonny Linehan’s life.

Originally from New Zealand, the BYU football punter lives a long way from home. As a member of the special teams, he’s been seen at fall camp on the side of the team’s scrimmage, swinging his leg and kicking the ball.

His goal this year? Increase the distance of his punts.

The former rugby star turned football player will start graduate school this fall. However, Linehan still has one year of eligibility to play football and will dawn Cougar blue and white this fall.

“When I had a taste of what football was like and I realized I had another year, it was easy to make the decision to come back,” he said.

Knowing it’s his final season with the Cougars, he has some big — or rather long — goals for this year.

“I really want to keep increasing my punting distance and help keep our net punting one of the top 10 in the country,” he said.

The Cougars finished the 2016 season as No. 20 in the nation for net punting.

Linehan, whose career average punting distance is 42.5 yards, said he wants to get to 44 yards this season.

However, he said punting averages don’t always tell the whole story.

“Sometimes we might only have 40 yards to kick, or sometimes we might have the full field,” he said. “It kind of averages out.”

In addition to distance, Linehan said he is working on a variety of punting styles to be ready for whatever the coaches call.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work on my traditional (kicks) with my spirals, trying to get good hang time, good distance,” he said.

But while he’s been working on new styles, he’s also been working on his forte – rugby kicking.

“That’s kind of what we do and what’s really effective for us,” he said.

Aside from his role on the field, Linehan takes on a variety of roles off the field, including sensational Tweeter and avid FIFA player.

Since last season, Linehan took on a new role – that of a father. His son, Carter, was born in March.

“You just want to do everything you can to make him proud, even though he can’t really understand anything about it right now,” he said. “It’s just more motivation to try and be better and just to be the best that I can and set an example for him.”

However, Linehan said he is already pretty motivated.

“If anything (my son) helps me stay motivated when I’m not having the best day or a little bit down,” he said.

Linehan also takes on the occasional role of music video star. Last August, he published a parody of Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.” Linehan’s version, “Puntin’, Kickin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” became instantly popular, and currently has over 58,000 views on YouTube.

Linehan said he hopes to produce another music video, possibly during fall camp.

“Playing a lot of FIFA on the Xbox has been digging into my music video time, but I’m hoping to free up some time,” he said.

While Linehan hasn’t chosen a song to parody yet, he said he has a few in mind, and he is considering changing the genre from country, though doing so could be challenging.

“Last year’s (song) was really easy because it all rhymed with punting and kicking,” he said. “There’s not many songs that talk about hunting and fishing.”

Though the country music-loving football player may seem well-acclimated to American culture, his distance from his native New Zealand has had no impact on the love for rugby he developed there.

“Rugby will always be my favorite sport, but football’s king in America, so when in Rome, right?” he said.

Linehan has been named to the 2017 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list. The Ray Guy Award honors the top college punter in the nation.

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