HELENA — Punting has always been a hobby for Matt Kvech.
Ever since he played football he punted the ball for fun on the side like most players at a young age. The difference for him was he was pretty good at the niche skill.
However, his passion in the game was defense. He loved to hit ball carriers and enjoyed intercepting passes.
That's why the junior from Renton, Washington, was brought on as a defensive back for the Carroll College football team.
For the last three seasons, he always picked up the ball on his spare time and kept punting.
So when coach Mike Van Diest asked his players if any of them really punted in high school, Kvech raised his hand.
This side activity turned into serious business as the starting punter for the Saints, while doubling as the nickel back.
“I punted pretty well in high school and tried to keep it up a bit,” Kvech said. “Last year Van Diest saw me punt in practice and he said next year we are going to give you a shot.”
Kvech’s punting at Eastside Catholic High started in the same manner. There was a need for a punter so he filled in and did well.
He was lauded as a first-team all-league player on defense in high school, and was second-team all-state as a kick returner.
There was nothing honoring him as a punter.
“I definitely didn’t think I had to do that again,” Kvech said. “Same thing in high school. We didn’t have a punter and I got thrown in there. When I was here, coach asked if anyone actually punted in high school. Thankfully, I got the job here.”
The Saints were in need of a punter this season. Van Diest recruiting two young kickers, and both also punted.
However, he wanted an insurance policy, and that was Kvech.
“He was there this spring and we didn’t know what we had,” Van Diest said. “We had a couple young guys come in, both were place-kickers and punters. Matt did some punting for us in the spring and in two-a-days, and he really showed that first game how good he can be."
Kvech punted eight times in the season opener against Rocky Mountain College. He averaged 42.5 yards and had a long of 56 yards — he had two of 50-plus. Four were fair caught and one downed inside the 20-yard line.
He averages 42.7 yards on 22 punts through the first three games of the season. There was only one bad punt in the bunch, which came in the second game against Montana Western.
Kvech had a big day against Linfield with nine punts for an average of 46.1 yards. Three were downed inside the 20 and there was a long of 61 yards.
He also added rugby style punting, where he jogs to the side and punts the ball on the run. The goal is to punt away from the returner and get a long roll after the ball lands.
“He had one bad punt there the other day, but for the most part he’s done a really good job for us,” Van Diest said. “ So I’m pleased with it. It’s a pleasant surprise. He’s a good athlete. He’s confident back there.”
Assistant coach Kaden Glinsmann has been helping Kvech improve on the little things such as the drop of the ball, timing and a consistent leg swing. However, Kvech is still raw in terms of development.
Kvech filled in as a punter during special teams periods during the spring. Then he spent two or three days a week punting on his own during the summer to get ready for the season.
“Spring was a tryout for the whole thing, and obviously he liked it,” Kvech said. “So it’s going pretty well so far. I try to keep up with it and try to do it a couple times a week so I’m not shanking balls.”
Kvech spends most of his time at practice with the defense backs, since that’s his primary position.
There’s a balancing act to getting enough practice in both areas so he’s ready for both duties on game days, but Kvech feels he can maintain a high level of play.
“I like defense more, it’s a lot of fun,” Kvech said. “And obviously, we want to punt the least amount we can. You just try to stay focused on everything when doing it. Don’t think about defense when punting and don’t think about punting on defense. It’s not too bad.”
He continues to work on his own like he always did in the past. The difference now is he’s called up on to do it for real with opponents barring down on him with bad intentions.
"He’s out there for four-five-six plays a game, he’s involved with the defense,” Van Diest said. “He’s one of our nickel backs. He’s done a great job with that. This keeps him in the game and he has a great attitude toward it. And I’m really happy for him.”
There’s greater potential for injury for Kvech by playing defense and then having to go out and punt banged up or hurt, but Van Diest and Kvech look at it as part of the game.
“If we protect him he won’t get hurt,” Van Diest said. “And on defense we hope he doesn’t get hurt tackling someone. But it’s part of the game. He’s doing a great job, so we want to keep it going.”