Punters have a weird job. As the only players in football explicitly tasked with turning the ball over, their sheer presence on the field is a letdown. When you see the punter, it means that your team’s offensive series has come to a fruitless end. Barring a trick play, what follows amounts to little more than rote tradition: The Ceremonial Changing of the Field Position. It’s often a good time to grab a beverage or head the bathroom. That is, unless Michael Dickson is the one doing the punting. The Seattle Seahawks’ rookie has only played one regular season game in the NFL, but he is already historically good at his position. This punter is positively enthralling.
Dickson is part special teams player, part teleportation device. Against the Denver Broncos in Week One, his punts traveled a net average of 57.5 yards. That is the second-highest number on record. It was just his first regular season start, but Dickson had one of the best games ever enjoyed by an NFL punter. According to the statistics connoisseurs at Football Outsiders, Dickson’s play was worth 9.66 points for Seattle. The Seahawks lost 27-24, but it would have been a blowout had it not been for Dickson’s ability to repeatedly pin Denver near their own end zone.
Born in Australia, the 22-year-old was a standout at Texas and won the Ray Guy award as college football’s best punter. You’ll almost never see a punter dominate a game, but Dickson was named MVP of the 2017 Texas Bowl for doing just that against Missouri. Of his 11 punts in that contest, 10 were downed inside Missouri’s 15-yard line. The Seahawks selected him in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. A pick spent on a punter is often a pick wasted, but it already looks as though Dickson should have gone higher. Playing against him is like returning punts in a trash compactor.
The Seahawks dominated the NFC in the middle of the decade thanks to their fearsome defense, but the “Legion of Boom” has since been disbanded. In their stead is a hobbled, makeshift unit that won’t be inspiring any (positive) nicknames during the team’s rebuild. But Dickson is a surprising cheat code. Since preseason, the rookie has demonstrated his ability to change the geometry of a football field in the Seahawks’ favor.
Watching a football game for the punter is kind of like eating at a restaurant because you like the hand-dryers in the bathroom, but Dickson is good enough to warrant some healthy curiosity. The Seahawks play the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football this week. Fans of booming parabolas and Australian magicians may want to tune in.