Falcons’ Seth Vernon trying to maximize this punting opportunity

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Becoming the next Jerry Rice wasn’t exactly working out while at Santa Rosa Junior College for Seth Vernon.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he looked the part. But once he started working on the craft of punting, he gave up on running post routes.

He earned a scholarship to Portland State and was signed by the Falcons after the 2022 draft to come in a compete for the vacant punter position. The Falcons did not re-sign Dustin Colquitt, who finished last season as the top punter.

“It’s been going great,” said Vernon, who’s a longshot to unseat veteran Bradley Pinion. “It’s been a blast. Having fun. Coming out here and working hard. For a rookie to be in a camp, I’m just blessed to be here.

“This is surreal,” Vernon said. “Just like everybody else out here on this field, all the rest of these players, it’s something you work for your entire life. In a split second it becomes true and you get an opportunity.”

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Vernon averaged 44.6 yards per punt over his college career. He has a big leg and boomed 23 of his 93 punts for more than 50 yards. He also forced 19 fair catches and 27 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.

“It probably took me a couple of days, about a week for everything to settle in because once I kind of got it, I was just like this is real,” Vernon said. “Now, it’s time to go to work.”

Vernon played at Maria Carrillo High in Santa Rosa, Calif.

“I hadn’t really been punting until I got to JUCO,” Vernon said. “So I did two years in JUCO before I got to Portland State. Then I made the transition to be full-time, just punting my sophomore year. So, I’d only been at it (a couple of years).”

He had five catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns in a JUCO game against Fresno on Sept. 1, 2018.

Vernon went under the radar of the Pac-12 schools.

“My name wasn’t really out there and I didn’t have a lot of recognitions,” Vernon said. “I didn’t really have a lot of scholarship offers. I played wide receiver and strong safety in high school and then just wide receiver my first two years and then I decided to make the transition.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A family friend was a junior college coach and he encouraged Vernon to give punting a shot. The plan was just to try it a couple times a week so that he could at least be proficient.

“I started training a couple times a week, then more often,” Vernon said. “I started having fun, really enjoying it.”

Vernon went to a kicking camp and things snowballed from there.

“I just fell in love with it,” Vernon said. " Having a craft and then understanding how to get better and going out every day trying to get better. I think the potential was always there, but the consistency lacked just because the lack of fundamentals.”

Vernon started booming his punts.

“The first week that I started training, my coach was like you know you can get a scholarship doing this,” Vernon said. “I really didn’t know. It wasn’t until other people around me started telling me like hey, you can really do this, before I kind of believed in myself.”

The work paid off.

“I just kept pushing and pushing and doors kept opening,” Vernon said.

Pinion, who played at Clemson, enjoys working with Vernon.

“We have a great room with (Younghoe) Koo, Liam (McCullough), Beau (Brinkley) and Seth,” Pinion said. “It’s just such a good room.”

Marquice Williams, the special-teams coordinator, explained how the Falcons found Vernon.

“Our scouting department did a great job in helping us out, and coach Steve Hoffman evaluating film and seeing the attributes that he has as a punter,” Williams said. “Strong leg. Athletic. When we look at the specialists room we look for athletes that punt, hold, snap and kick. Those guys that we have in there, reflect that when it comes to our specialists.”

Pinion, who’s set to enter his eighth year in the league, has been more than helpful to Vernon.

“I can’t say enough about Brad,” Vernon said. “Ever since I met him, he took me under his wing. He made it very clear that throughout his career in the NFL that there were guys that he learned from ahead of him that taught him, showed him how to be successful.”

Vernon has not been shy about asking for help.

“Anything and everything that I’ve needed or have had questions about he’s been super supportive,” Vernon said. “Film breakdown. Just looking at my form. Hey, maybe tweak this or tweak that.”

If you can spot Pinion on the far away field with your binoculars, Vernon is not far behind.

“I just follow him around and do everything he says,” Vernon said. “We lift together. We eat together. Warm up together. Everything. So, this is great having a vet at my position kind of teach me the ropes.”

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