There aren’t many former punters that would be described as premier players and premier athletes. Pat McAfee, however, is no ordinary retired punter.
In truth, McAfee wasn’t even just a regular punter when he was playing in the NFL between 2009 and 2016 with the Indianapolis Colts. Most punters – specifically before the influx of Australian crossover athletes with massive legs – were cited as being contact shy and, if we were to be mean, not real football players.
McAfee broke that mold. At 6-foot-1 and every bit of 225 pounds, McAfee was built more like a linebacker than a punter. A placekicker and punter at West Virginia, McAfee was taken with the No. 222 overall pick in Round 7 of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Colts.
McAfee immediately became a fan favorite. He handled placekicking and punting duties for the Colts and he was excellent at both. A two-time Pro Bowler in 2014 and 2016, McAfee was also named First-Team All-Pro at his position in 2014. McAfee retired after eight seasons in the league and to date still holds the NFL record for highest career net punting average at 41.1 yards with a minimum of 250 punts made.
What made McAfee stand out on the field most was his willingness to hit kickoff and punt returners and usually win the battle. He was not a player willing to be juked and fall to the ground to avoid a tackle. McAfee knew he was a football player and he seemed to make it his mission to prove that not every specialist was afraid of contact.
There are a number of hard hits on his resume, but the one that stands out the most was on a Sunday Night Football game in 2013 against the Denver Broncos. Broncos’ returner Trindon Holliday – one of the fastest players on the team – was flying down the left sideline on a return. That’s when McAfee appeared. He took the angle of a safety, using the sideline to trap Holliday, before just running him over with everything he had from the side as the Bronco reached the 45 yard-line.
It was an epic hit – Holliday spun through the air as if hit by a truck – and the commentary duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth meant that the hit was instantly immortalized as one of the best of the season by any player, let alone a punter.
As good as McAfee was on the field, what the 35-year-old has done in retirement has made him stand out even more. His retirement was early by NFL standards, with McAfee having an open offer to work for Barstool Sports where his oversized personality was an instant fit. This change was helped because he had been unhappy with the leadership structure within the Colts organization for a while and wanted to try something new.
From there, McAfee worked with Fox Sports and ESPN on college and pro football broadcasts and panels. He has also worked extensively in radio and hosts his own show on Sirius XM radio. The show is one that’s always newsworthy because Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a frequent guest.
Even with all this going on, McAfee has more on his plate. An avid professional wrestling fan, McAfee has transitioned to call WWE Smackdown, one of the two flagship shows for the company. He also has dabbled as a wrestler, wowing the WrestleMania audience with his athleticism and ability between the ropes.
What stands out about McAfee is that this premier player is simply unwilling to be bad at anything. He might be the most driven ex-professional football player on the planet, grinding to mark off his goals and grow his brand. He runs or helps run multiple foundations and charitable endeavors. His own Pat McAfee Foundation works with the sons and daughters of military personnel, while he is involved with “Fur the Brand” which helps with the cost of animal surgeries.
McAfee is a larger-than-life character with a larger-than-life heart and he is someone everyone should root for as he continues his assault on the world of sports broadcasting.