For almost everyone involved in football – players and fans alike – the term has negative connotations. It means that, in one way or another, whether it be players, officials, league representatives, or any combination of these, the season is not going to proceed as expected.
For almost everyone.
For a select few players on a football team, lockout is a sacred word that signifies success and mastery. As defined by kickers, lockout has nothing to do with administrative disagreements or labor strife.
Rather, it is the moment the foot comes into contact with the ball such that the leg’s timing is perfectly correlated with that of the descent of the ball, with the result being a perfect connection and hence an outstanding kick. Technically, the leg becomes perfectly straight and “locks out,” which explains the origin of the term.
For players such as Josh Repp, who have become experts at achieving lockout, one would be hard-pressed to find another term that would excite him more.
Repp was a two-sport athlete in high school, also competing in baseball at Los Osos in Alta Loma, Calif. Doubling as a kicker and cornerback, Repp was not limited to special teams exposure, and because of this gained a more enriched understanding of football as a whole.
In the process of narrowing down possible colleges, Repp visited Linfield and felt a strong connection from the start. “I got along well with the coaching staff and players when I came to visit,” he remembers, adding that he was attracted to the winning tradition associated with Wildcat football.
It was not until he arrived at Linfield that Repp converted into a full-time punter. He had previously excelled in all aspects of the kicking game, but explains that when he became a Wildcat, he “found out what I was good at and what the team needed me to do.”
Unlike many athletes making the transition from high school to college, Repp handled pressure situations well from Day 1, and according to special teams coach Brandon Hazenberg, he has always been focused. “Josh has never been shy of taking the big kick and takes it in stride like any other situation,” he says, adding, “He is truly a pleasure to coach and is one of the most reliable, dedicated, and focused individuals on this team.”
Linfield is currently ranked No. 3 in the most recent d3football.com Top 25 poll on the strength of its perfect 4-0 record. While the Wildcats’ offense provides the firepower, the key to Linfield’s early season success can easily be traced back to its defensive play, and specifically its opponents’ field position.
Repp has punted 18 times this fall, averaging 39.94 yards per kick. This individual stat alone is impressive, but when the special teams coverage unit is brought into the equation, the result is remarkable. Factoring in return yards allowed, Linfield’s net punting average sits at 39.56, second-best across NCAA Division III.
Since punts directly impact a team’s defensive unit and dictate the mentality a defense has on any given drive, having a good punter is an absolute necessity. “As a defense, it puts us in a much better situation both on the field and mentally,” junior linebacker Tyler Robitaille says. “Josh and the whole punt team this year have been a huge help and should be credited with our defensive stops,” he adds, emphasizing the importance of special teams excellence.
“He is instrumental in our field position on a weekly basis,” Hazenberg says.
Despite the heavy pressure that comes with the responsibility of punting, Repp says that there isn’t a particular mental preparation routine he strictly follows before games. “I just try to get out on the field early, warm up, and play catch with (Alex) Hoff,” he notes, referring to Linfield’s freshman long-snapper.
While Repp’s contributions are clearly revealed through his statistical performance, his quiet leadership-by-example presence does not go overlooked amongst players or coaches. “There is no doubt in my mind that Josh has earned the respect of his teammates,” said Hazenberg.
“He is there early every day, and does all he can to help the team when its not a special teams period,” says Robitaille. “As a teammate, he is more than you ask for.”
Being the humble role model he is, Repp credits his work ethic and positive attitude to those surrounding him on a daily basis. “Maika (Kunioka) is such a confident teammate who is always trying his hardest, day-in and day-out,” praises Repp, in reference to fellow kicker, who has been by Repp’s side since day one of their freshman year. “He is definitely the No. 1 worker on the team. Maika gives 100 percent all the time,” Repp notes, attributing his own development and growth to that which he has witnessed in Kunioka.
While the ‘Cats have their sights set on another deep run into the playoffs, they will be happy to look down the road to next season and see Repp’s No. 16 jersey on the field once again. Because of an injury, Repp still has one more year of eligibility, and plans to make the most of it and contribute to next year’s program.
“After graduating, I am going to apply to law-enforcement agencies,” says Repp, revealing his interest in one day becoming a police officer. For now, the talented punter will focus on the magic sensation that is lockout while continuing to fill a leadership role on one of the premier football programs in the country.
– Evan O’Kelly ‘13