SAN DIEGO — Few punters get selected in the NFL draft each year — but then again, few have a nickname like “The Punt God.”
The San Diego State Aztecs’ Matt Araiza earned that moniker with booming kicks that made highlight reels and generated national attention, and now he’s been picked 180th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Araiza, who also served as a placekicker for the Aztecs, won the Ray Guy award for most outstanding punter in 2022. He was also a first-team All-American, bolstered by six punts of at least 70 yards and a season-long of 86 yards.
Before his four years, including a redshirt season, with the Aztecs, Araiza was a standout performer elsewhere in America’s Finest City. The man with the booming leg was born in San Diego and played his high school ball at Rancho Bernardo High School.
In a surprise that generated (relative) shock waves, Araiza was not actually the first punter selected this weekend — or the second. He was picked third after the Baltimore Ravens selected Jordan Stout and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Jake Camarda.
Why NFL teams assessed the punter class so differently from the media hype remains to be seen. It could be because Araiza doesn’t have much practice as a placekick holder at a high level (because he was the one kicking in those situations, too).
For what it’s worth, Araiza told Sports Illustrated he plans to focus exclusively on punting at the next level.
And regardless, in San Diego, Araiza reigns supreme. There are sure to be Aztecs fans watching Bills’ fourth downs closely in the season to come.