GOLDEN — Taylor Accardi was never a punter first. It’s just something he’s done since he was little. He did it off to the side. But for the past four years it’s what the 21-year-old did exclusively for the Colorado School of Mines, and he’s done it well.
The 2012 Division II Preseason All-American and mechanical engineering student has been quite the threat for the Orediggers. In 2009, Accardi averaged 39.3 yards per punt. In the three year that followed that average improved to 45.4 yards in 2010, 48.5 in 2011 and 51.1 this past year, including an 81-yarder. The last two seasons he’s been the Division II leader in punting average after finishing second in 2010.
In 2012, he shattered a 47-year Division II mark for average yards per punt, previously held by Steve Ecker of Shippensburg. Ecker averaged 49.1 yards per punt, with a minimum of 30 punts, in 1965.
Accardi had 26 punts of 50 yards or longer and 15 landed inside the opposition’s 20. In all, he had 49 punts for 2,505 yards. He concluded his career as the all-time NCAA Division II leader in career punting average with a mark of 46.1 yards on 203 punts. That breaks the previous mark of 44.9 yards set by Jeff Williams of Adams State from 2002-05. So what does that say about Accardi?
“It says a lot about field position. Taylor has changed field position a lot for us even in his freshman year,” special teams coach Clement Grinstead. “I think it just comes down to being more consistent and kicking it better, keeping it away from the return man. Our coverage team is doing a better job of covering punts. There’s an understanding that there’s a good chance he’ll kick it over the return man’s head, not giving them a chance to recover from it and actually get a return in.”
But, as Accardi acknowledged, football, in particular special teams, is not a one-man effort. It takes the 10 players around him to make him so successful.
“I’ve got to say it’s not just me it’s my whole punt team. It’s not just me. I have to have a good snap every time. I have to have guys block for me. If it was just me I coudn’t do it,” the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Dakota Ridge High graduate said.
But there’s little doubt that Accardi has been a special player. The Colorado School of Mines senior has a plethora of accolades to prove it — preseason Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference special teams player of the year, first-team All-RMAC, first-team All-America, and second-team Associated Press Little All-America just to name a few. While he doesn’t focus on those it speaks for the kind of athlete he is.
“One thing we saw with Taylor coming in is that he’s a great athlete, a good safety. That was one of the things he wanted to fight for. The first couple of years he wanted to play a little bit of defense, he wanted to play another position. But he just became too valuable to the team as a punter that we couldn’t risk him getting hurt at another position,” Grinstead said.
He’s still working on being more consistent, Accardi said, and being more than just one who booms the ball every time he kicks it. If he gets better with that than his next step just could be the NFL.
“I’m not counting on anything, but I’m definitely going to give it a try,” Accardi said. “I’ve heard from a few agents, a couple of letters here and there. We’ll see where it goes after the season.”
But, as Grinstead said, if someone is willing to work with Taylor Accardi, he just may be a jewel just like he’s been for the Colorado School of Mines the past four years.