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Arizona Perfect Landing Spot For Accidental Punter Matt Haack

Ex-Sun Devil tries to win job after Cardinals move on from Andy Lee

Matt Haack is battling with Nolan Cooney for the Cardinals' punting job.
Matt Haack is battling with Nolan Cooney for the Cardinals' punting job.

Matt Haack enters his seventh season as a punter in the NFL, yet he has no shame in acknowledging that once, he couldn't have told you the name of any pro football punters.

Haack played everywhere when he was in high school. Running routes as a wide receiver, finding the gap as the running back, and occasionally jumping in at quarterback for some wildcat action. Punting wasn't even a thought.

Then he became one.

"I would just say it was probably the best decision (I) ever made," Haack said.

Haack, the Arizona State product who has spent his first six seasons with the Dolphins, Bills and Colts, is trying to beat out Nolan Cooney for the vacant Cardinals' job. The journey has been an interesting one, beyond just the transition of playing a bunch of snaps in a game to only a few.

One day during a high school practice, Haack was catching some punts and grew tired of throwing the ball back to the kid doing the kicking. Instead of tossing it, he booted it.

Heads turned.

"The kicking coach at the time was like, 'What are you doing over there?'" Haack said, recalling the memory with a smile. He was told to audition with a few more punts that day, and Haack's football life took a turn.

The West Des Moines native had a goal of playing wide receiver in college, but decided to try out his new skill at a punting camp. Haack was so good he "won" the camp over more polished punters.

He caught the attention of Jamie Kohl, who has trained NFL punters including Tommy Townsend, Pat McAfee, and Tress Way.

"Who the hell are you?" Kohl asked Haack. "Well, I'm not a punter," Haack replied. "I'm just here to learn."

After a call between Kohl and Haack's dad about Matt's punting potential, switching positions became the path. Haack, who was born in Arizona before moving to Iowa, chose to punt at ASU. He did well enough there to sign with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

While he's carved out a solid career, he finds himself back in Arizona, which is where he has always wanted to be.

"It's like a second home to me," Haack said. "I actually bought a house here in the offseason as a home base, so when they (Cardinals) called, I took the quick 20-minute drive down the street for the workout. It really is a dream come true."

The Cardinals brought in the 29-year-old after letting Andy Lee leave after his contract expired. Along with Haack, the team also re-signed 26-year-old Cooney -- another punter whose journey to the NFL is remarkable.

Beyond punting, the Cardinals also use the position as a holder for kicker Matt Prater.

"(Special teams) coach (Jeff) Rodgers has given these guys a couple of things that they need to work on to improve their game and you can tell it worked and they're mindful of it," Jonathan Gannon said.

There's more familiarity between Rodgers and Cooney after Cooney spent time with the organization last season, but Haack brings experience.

"I've got a solid feel for what their skillsets are," Rodgers said. "There's factors that go into it. Nolan kicks off, which is good. Matt's left footed which causes issues sometimes with returners."

Haack wasn't signed until May, and is still absorbing Rodgers' teaching.

"I'm just focusing on punting the best I can, being a great teammate, and being a great holder for Matt," Haack said.

If Haack knew in high school that he'd be in a training camp competition to be the Cardinals punter, he wouldn't believe it. But all of these years later, he can't help but occasionally think back to how his unique journey began.

If he could go back in time to that first practice, he knows what he would've told his high school self.

"Opportunities," Haack said, "come from anywhere."

Images from the Red & White Practice during 2023 Cardinals Training Camp at State Farm Stadium

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