Northern Illinois junior punter Josh Wilber kicked a career-long 57-yard punt in Saturday’s 34-31 loss. After the game, the tattooed junior college transfer talked with the Daily Chronicle’s Jon Styf. Here is the edited transcript.
Did you feel a little bit for Idaho punter Bobby Cowan when the rush came after him?
Right when our line jumped off, I knew it was going to be blocked, just because of how bad we needed to get the ball back. We’ve been working on that all week. It’s something I feel for because earlier in practice that’s the block that hurt my foot earlier this year.
What do you do in a moment like that when the rush comes at you?
It was a mistake by their line because they didn’t block anyone and we just ran through them up the middle. What you try to do is just focus and swing through, but if it’s that close sometimes you can notice it and turn and kind of do a rugby punt.
What’s the transition been like coming to NIU from Phoenix College?
It’s a lot faster and in junior college they just told me to kick it. Here, you have to angle it and it’s all about placement.
Do teams rush the punt differently here?
The rush is just a lot quicker.
Why did you decide to come here from Arizona?
My uncle used to teach at NIU and my mother is from Chicago. She’s been out in Arizona, but I talked to NIU and a couple other schools and NIU made me feel like they wanted me the most and I also had some family here. Since I started to come here within a week of my decision, I had some family to help me out.
You were in the Marines before college, how long were you in?
I was in for a little over three years. I was a crew chief on a helicopter and I did training.
How does that help you in football?
The mentality and ability to concentrate when you’re getting yelled at all the time. You get stronger. I get a lot of criticism in practice and I take their orders. When I get yelled at, I don’t just curl up in a ball, I keep going and just make myself better.
The coaching staff here likes to be tough on the kickers and special teams. What is that like?
I love it, because in junior college I came to practice by myself and no one helped me out. Here, they yell and help us and it’s criticism that I can take and it makes me better.
You were a linebacker in high school. You had a chance to make a play on your second punt [Saturday], did the instincts come right back?
I miss hitting, but now I’m older and 24. Today, when he was returning the ball he had two lead blockers, so I went up and hit one of the blockers into the returner and that’s how we made the tackle. My focus was just to stop him.