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Senior Hunter Daly Thriving in Role of Kicker/Punter for Montclair State

Montclair State University Red Hawks senior kicker/punter Hunter Daly said he never thought he would be in these shoes playing college football. While attending Neptune High School, Daly played soccer his freshman year, didn’t play sports in his sophomore year due to academic reasons. However, Daly caught a huge break in the spring kicking fields in a physical education. The head football coach noticed Daly and encouraged him to try out for the team the following year. Daly enjoyed playing so much he returned to the team for his senior year.

“We got to 8-3 and I kick a game winning 37-yarder against Colts Neck in double overtime,” said Daly. “It was definitely different because I played soccer my entire life, football is a different atmosphere and attitude and a lot more pressure.”

Fast forward to Saturday, September 22 at Christopher Newport, the Red Hawks had dropped two straight to the Captains. With the game on the line in overtime with a 25-yard field goal opportunity, Daly booted it home as Montclair State improved to 3-0 on the year and earned NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) Special Teams Player of the Week.

“A big game for us past two years, we lost to them in double overtime and [it was a] heartbreaker,” Daly said. “Definitely important for us to come together as a team and win that game in all aspects. We held our own on offense, defense and kicking game. To start off 3-0 is a great for us, gives us momentum to stick together as team throughout the season. Being able to go out there on Saturday’s and enjoy wearing the Red Hawk colors.

“Before a kick my team comes up to me, always encouraging and motivating me. I just went out there thinking it’s an extra point and put it through that is the main objective. The hold, snapping and blocking have to be perfect. Relying on my teammates to block and get the snap down so I can do my job.”

Describing the environment on the school campus, “Everyone is enjoying it and behind us,” said Daly. “The past few years we didn’t start out that great and to be 3-0 this year is really big. Kids come up to us on campus all the time and congratulate us and tell us to keep it going. It feels great knowing the community and student body are behind us.”

Appearing in all ten games during the 2017 season, Daly knocked home 11 out of 14 field goals including four of them against Kean University, where he drilled home a game winning 41-yarder. Daly set a school single season record with a 78.6 field goal percentage and averaged 38.1 on punts. Selected as the NJAC Special Teams Player of the Year, named NJAC Player of the Week four times and named to the D3football Team of the Week.

Daly proved his durability in the first two years at Montclair State each appearing in all 20 games during the 2016 season averaging 35.7 on punts with eight downed inside the 20-yard line including a booming 66-yarder at Wesley. In his freshman year, Daly average 34.5 on punts with 14 inside the 20.

“It comes down to where the coach wants the ball placed, when we need to get a deep kick and driving the ball inside the 20 is huge,” said Daly. “I have to get enough height on the ball so our guys can down there and field the ball.

“Very humbling to have the year [2017] I did have, when I won the Special Teams Player of the Year. I texted my long snapper and holder telling them congratulations on winning this together as a family. To get the record of 78.6, I didn’t realize it until the end of season when Mike Scala [Director of Sports Publicity] came up to me and let me know I got the single season record percentage.

“When we played Kean last year, I had four field goals and Coach Giancola put the trust and belief in me that I could do it. I kick the 41-yarder with six and half minutes left in the game but our defense got an interception late that I thought was the game winner.

“Coach Giancola is a great guy, most active winningest coach in Division III football right now and to look back on his legacy and all the great things he has done for Montclair State University. A great thing to play under him, even better when we are in field goal position or on the verge of having to punt, he comes up and questions me and asks if I can get it but trusts me to be honest with him and tell him everything.

Asked about what feels differently about the 2018 team Daly said, “A family that is coming together and buying into Coach Giancola’s game plan for the season and how we have to attack each game. The best part is we are all buying in and doing what needs to be done in order to be successful. Mauro [Altamura] and [Jake] Weber are doing a great job of keeping us together and preaching family through adversity and taking care of each other and having each other’s back.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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