By Carmine Frongillo
DURHAM, N.H. -- Brad Prasky finally got the kick out of sports he was looking for once he got the boot from Groton-Dunstable's golf team.
After failing to make the cut for the golf squad in the fall of his sophomore year, Prasky decided to give football a try.
His first year in organized football, Prasky played on a co-op team at Ayer High, which included players from Groton-Dunstable. Prasky spent his junior and senior seasons on the Crusaders' then newly formed varsity squad. He played receiver on offense and was used in the secondary on defense, but punting and placekicking was where he made his mark in the fledgling program.
By the end of his senior season his football career was taking flight and gaining hang time, yet Prasky knew it would soon be grounded if he didn't find a college program. He attended several camps and it was on Prasky's flight home from a national kicking combine in Florida where he met a family friend of University of New Hampshire (UNH) head football coach Sean McDonnell.
Prasky was looking for a team to punt for, and as luck would have it, UNH was looking to add depth at punter. It's a match that ultimately has given the Wildcats a leg up on their competition.
"A friend of my wife was flying back from Florida and met Prasky on the plane," said McDonnell. "They started talking. Prasky told him he was returning from a kicking combine.
"We got him up here for a visit and he decided to punt for us. It's been a great ride with the kid. He came in as a walk-on. He was very raw, but very talented. He's not only a terrific punter, he's a terrific athlete."
Prasky, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 200 pounds, is heading into his senior season at UNH. He punted in all 15 games last fall as the Wildcats checked in with a 10-5 record while advancing to the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs before losing to three-time defending national champion North Dakota State.
In his first full season as UNH's punter, Prasky not only proved to be a difference-maker on special teams, he served as an extension of the defense, consistently pinning opposing teams deep in their own territory.
Prasky punted 72 times for 2,975 yards as a junior, finishing with a 41.3-yard-average. He placed 22 punts inside the 20. Prasky recorded a punt of 50-plus yards in nine games, including a career-long of 77 yards against Maine.
"This place has been really good for me and to me," said Prasky. "Coach Mac has helped keep me level headed. His way of teaching builds guys up from their foundation and makes boys into men. I don't think I could have got this anywhere else. I'm really glad I landed here.
"I had to earn my playing time. There were a lot of guys ahead of me. My entire career we had a kicker, Mike MacArthur, who I still look up to. He set the field goal record here. He really pushed me. I didn't get onto the field until I could take that position. It wasn't handed to me."
Often times, punters aren't view as "real" football players by fans. This isn't the case with Prasky. Not only does everyone associated with the Wildcat program realize his importance in the team's success, they know Prasky sweated his way to the top of the depth chart thanks to a strong work ethic.
"He's a great weapon," said McDonnell. "He's one of our leaders, not just with the kickers and punters, but the entire team. Everyone on the team respects him.
"We are very fortunate to have him. He solidifies our special teams. The thing we have to worry about is protecting him (during punts) because we know if we catch and kick it's going to be pretty good."
UNH enters the 2014 campaign ranked fourth nationally in both the Coaches Poll and the Sports Network Top 25. The Wildcats play at Toledo on Saturday, August 30 in their season opener.
"Being ranked fourth in the country is a great feeling," said Prasky. "I think it's good for us to have a target on our back so we know we have to go out and perform. We've always been the underdog with the undersized guys. In the playoffs last year every team we faced was favored to beat us. Now we get to prove we can be the top guy."
Prasky is determined to do all he can to help the Wildcats live up to their advance billing. He punted in four games as a sophomore, with a long kick of 59 yards. He has a career punting average of 40.9.
Prasky also excels in the classroom where he's finishing a degree in economics. He has a 3.4 grade-point-average.