BOURBONNAIS — It isn’t every day that a punter is the star of a training-camp practice. Then again, it isn’t every day that a punter, and a rookie one at that, launches tight spirals going more than 70 yards in the air.
But Pat O’Donnell has established that he doesn’t appear to be just another punter, the only one taken in the 2014 draft, by the Bears in the sixth round.
O’Donnell’s first punt Sunday, a massive boot landing well beyond returner Chris Williams’ reach, drew appreciative whoops from major portions of the Olivet Nazarene crowd estimated at more than 9,500. By the time his turn came around again, fans started a low roar, accompanied by pounding on the metal bleachers, all accompanying a first-of-its-kind rhythmic chant:
“Mega-punt! Mega-punt! Mega-Punt!” right up to the moment of O’Donnell’s effort. When he got one off that wobbled down short of the city limits, the result was a good-natured groan.
“It’s good to have the fans involved, like we are,” O’Donnell said.
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Special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis wasn’t so sure: “That’s a first. That’s obviously a first. I was thinking, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me over there.’ It was ridiculous. Let’s keep the kid’s feet on the ground so far. No, never.”
O’Donnell said his longest punt was as a senior at Miami: 73 yards from scrimmage, meaning 86 yards in the air.
One-time Bears punter Todd Sauerbrun, a second-round pick in 1995 and also a true power-punter, arrived for his first training camp in with the license plate “HANGTIME.” Might O’Donnell change his car ID to “MEGA?”
"Not just yet,” he said, laughing.
O’Donnell is in a solid competition with Tress Way, who wasn’t able to match the moonshots of O’Donnell on Sunday. Coaches have had O’Donnell also do some kickoffs, until now the job of Robbie Gould but something that could involve O’Donnell, who stands 6-4, 200 pounds.
“I’m just looking at what the coach has to say right now,” said O’Donnell, who kicked off for three years in college. “Right now that’s Robbie’s job and whatever coach needs me to do, work it different days.”