LOGAN, Utah – They say consistency is key. This applies in the workplace, in life and in the case of Utah State senior punter Jaron Bentrude, on the field.
“My job is to help the offense and defense know they can count on there being at least a 40-yard net. They can gameplan according to that,” Bentrude said. “The most important part of being a punter is consistency. It’s not about the big ones, those don’t matter as much. How short are your shortest ones is the biggest deal.”
And he does just that. Bentrude made his first major contributions as the Aggie punter in 2013 as a junior. He averaged 39.8 yards per punt that year for a total of 2,903 yards. He had 31 punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 11 reaching into the 10-yard line.
For not being a specialist until his senior year of high school, Bentrude has a pretty solid stat line. After much convincing from former high school and college teammate Keegan Andersen, Bentrude finally got his start in football as a sophomore at Juan Diego High School in Draper, Utah. Starting out as a receiver, he didn’t make the switch until his final season. Being friends with the son of a Division I football coach has its perks, as Bentrude caught the eye of Gary Andersen. He committed Bentrude as a preferred walk-on with the intent of using him on kickoffs. After a year as a redshirt, he spent two seasons kicking off, developing his technique and eventually moving to punting.
“We had really good kickers, so I decided to make myself more valuable to the team by adding another skill to my repertoire,” Bentrude said. “There’s not a lot of difference mentally between the three, but they are all different techniques. I just worked on each of them, wanting to be consistent in all three.”
Last season, Aggie fans got a glimpse of Bentrude’s skills on the offensive side of the ball, a stretch from the skills everyone was aware of. In an Oct. 19 game at New Mexico a punt was called, but Bentrude kept his hands on the ball and ran 72 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw the guy dive inside, so I was just going to take it outside. I saw the space and was just going to get a first down and let the offense run the clock out. Then I saw the opening. I knew I wasn’t going to get the chance again any time soon, so I decided to just go for it,” Bentrude said. “It’s fun to talk about and is a good conversation starter.”
The consistency Bentrude brings to the field does not go unnoticed by anyone, particularly the Aggie coaching staff.
“Jaron is a very multi-faceted athlete. As he showed last year, he can run and is pretty athletic. He holds for us, he punts, he does on-side stuff, he’s a good kickoff guy,” said Dave Ungerer, the special teams coordinator. “He’s been a huge help because he’s a multi-talented and multi-dimensional guy. He had a really good summer as far as training goes.”
This summer, Bentrude spent time in Mobile, Ala. at Mike McCabe’s One on One Kicking Camp. The camp focuses on further instilling the skills these kickers already know, helping them perfect their craft.
“They’re doing really well with getting guys ready for college and the NFL,” Bentrude said. “I didn’t necessarily learn anything that changed anything, it was more tricks to the trade. I was helping myself become more consistent and teaching myself through filmwork. It was about knowing more overall about the position.”
Bentrude expands his consistent, hard-working efforts off the field as well. He earned academic all-conference honors in both 2012 and 2013 as he pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. Balancing athletics and academics is tough regardless of the program, but to do so in such an intense program is that much harder.
“The biggest thing was time management,” Bentrude said. “I had to make sure my coursework was done to where I could focus on football and having enough football done in the right time period so I could focus on school.”
In a collegiate football program, specialist players are expected to be independent and do a lot on their own. At practice, the group spends about 20 minutes with the entire team before going to a different field to do their work.
“We can focus on being ready when we actually have to play in a game,” Bentrude said. “There’s a lot of sitting around in between plays in a game for us. We try and repeat that situation in practice.”
As he moves toward his future, Bentrude hopes to take the leadership skills he has developed and maintain his consistency in his day-to-day life.
“I’ve learned a lot about dealing with adversity, being able to contribute to a greater cause with your teammates and applying that to the workplace,” Bentrude said. “When you’re a manager of a group of people, you’re going to have to get them through hard times, that goes into leadership. You’re dealing with people all the time from all different backgrounds; and that helps educate you and prepare you for the world outside of football.”
Bentrude finished his undergraduate degree this spring and is currently pursuing his MBA. Following his career in football, whenever that may end, he hopes to work his way up in engineering management and own his own business.
“He’s a really smart kid, already graduated and working on another degree,” Ungerer said. “He does a really nice job leading the specialist group. I count on him for a lot of leadership.”
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