After a trip to wine country, Cobras’ new punter ready to get back into the game
Former Boise State punter Brad Elkin made a deal with his mom several years ago, but it wasn’t until he earned his business degree from the Mountain West Conference school in December 2011 that he got to fulfill the opportunity.
While Elkin finished up his senior year at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, he applied and was accepted to participate in a student-exchange program that would have seen him study in Europe during the summer.
Instead, his skills on the football field were drawing attention from a handful of NCAA Division I programs, so Bellarmine coach Tom Larson convinced Elkin’s mom that her son’s studies abroad could wait.
Elkin punted his way through five years at Boise State — some painful, some full of promise — and last year he found himself in Spain, working at a vineyard in prime wine country.
“It was a random stroke of luck,” Elkin said. “I was looking up schooling stuff (online) because I wanted to study Spanish, and in one of those sidebar advertising things, I found the winery.”
The town was Roa, Spain, with a population of about 3,000, an hour north of Madrid. Elkin found a person with whom he could stay, learned some of the language and worked in the fields for six hours a day. He conceded he didn’t know anything about wine when he started the job; in town, he was simply known as “The American.”
“It was very interesting,” he said. “Culturally, it was something else.”
After his career at Boise State, it was something he felt he needed to do.
“Playing Division I sports is very, very structured,” Elkin said. “It really became the saying, ‘I need to go.’ It was kind of my escape for a bit to get out of that mindset.
“I’m a very structured, organized person, but I needed to break that,” he added. “I didn’t need to be told when to eat, when to lift (weights), when to go to class.”
Now 24, Elkin is returning to the football field, albeit with another stroke of luck. Soccer is the first love for the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, and as he worked out with the Tacoma Stars’ indoor team in January, he noticed several members of the Seattle-Tacoma Cobras lifting weights in the same complex.
The 5-year-old Professional Developmental Football League didn’t exist when Elkin grew up in the Browns Point area of Tacoma, so he didn’t know who the football players were.
A friend told him they were looking for a kicker.
“As soon as I heard they were looking for a guy, I was like, ‘That would be fun to do,’ ” he said.
Elkin has the experience to solidify the Cobras’ special teams. As a fifth-year senior at Boise State in 2011, he was the Broncos’ starter and finished tied for 12th in the nation with 25 punts inside opponents’ 20-yard line. He also ripped off a career-long 61-yard punt against Nevada that year.
Elkin credited Boise State’s offense with his prowess for pinning other teams in their own territory.
“Between Kellen (Moore) and Doug Martin, we didn’t get stuck in our end too much,” he said.
Moore went 50-3 in his career as the Broncos’ starting quarterback, the best in major college history, and he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Lions. Martin, a running back, was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-round draft pick last year and had a couple of breakout games during the 2012 NFL season.
Elkin received all-conference honorable mention in 2011, even though he attempted about half the number of punts as some of the top talent in the Mountain West.
“When you’ve got Kellen Moore throwing the ball, you don’t get too many chances to punt,” he said.
Elkin also had to fight for his roster spot with the Broncos, both because of ruptured discs in his back that required surgery during his sophomore year, and because he was in constant competition with Kyle Brotzman, who graduated with the most points for a kicker in NCAA history.
Elkin redshirted his true senior year in 2010 and became the Broncos’ starter the following season, when they moved to the Mountain West from the Western Athletic Conference.
Throughout his career, he’s worked with both a traditional punt and a rollout rugby-style kick, although he said he’ll probably stick with the former this season with the Cobras.
Even though he hasn’t attempted a kickoff or a field goal in a game situation since his senior year at Bellarmine Prep, Elkin said he’s confident he can pick up the duties.
“My punting will be fine, my kickoffs should be OK, and my field goals, once I get back into it, will be OK,” he said.
And he’s got experience on his side. Boise State went to five bowl games — two Fiesta Bowls — while he was with the Broncos. He played in the last one, a 56-24 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl victory over Arizona State in 2011 that helped Boise State finish 12-1, ranked eighth in the country.
“I’m going in to have fun and play football again,” Elkin said. “You miss it really quick as soon as you get out of it.”
Boise State statistics
Year G Punts Avg Lg I20
2007 9 27 37.5 56 8
2008 4 10 40.2 48 2
2009 7 11 35.8 48 7
2011 13 43 42.0 61 25
Total 33 91 39.7 61 42
By Brian McLean