NCAA Football

Aztecs Specialist Turning Heads: #Araiza4Heisman Is a Real Thing, and It Should Be

Aztecs punter/kicker is generating buzz like no specialist ever has before

San Diego State hosts Fresno State on Saturday night. The Aztecs are 7-0 and have the nation’s 5th-ranked defense with a potent rushing offense. Logically, the first media question to Bulldogs head coach Kalen DeBoer was about SDSU’s best player:

Punter Matt Araiza.

“It’s crazy what he does,” said DeBoer. “He just flips the field on you so many times. Every punt you’ve just got to expect that you’re going to be deep in your own territory.”

Yes, Matt Araiza is a special talent. He’s one of the better field goal kickers in the nation. But the junior is without question THE BEST punter on earth.

He averages 54 yards a punt, which will demolish the single-season NCAA record. He’s stuck half his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, showing amazing touch for someone with that kind of leg strength.

He’s also the first player in history to kick a 50-yard field goal and unleash an 80-yard punt in the same game in back-to-back weeks. He also leads the team in special teams tackles and folks around the nation are starting to take notice.

This week, Rich Eisen gave Araiza the Gorilla Glue Toughest Player on Planet Earth award (which comes with a Gorilla Glue NIL deal worth $1,000) then started gushing about Matt’s exploits against Air Force, putting four of 5 punts inside the 20 including an absurd 81-yarder from his own end zone.

“This is a weapon! This is serious business!” says Eisen. “Air Force has a chance to win until they’re pinned inside their own 10. Game over. That’s a weapon, bro.”

It’s nice to see the rest of the country taking notice because what this kid is doing is truly phenomenal.

“It’s special,” says SDSU head coach Brady Hoke, a man who is not prone to hyperbole. “The other night when he boomed the ball, just the change the field position … he’s the MVP as far as I’m concerned right now, how he’s played and what he’s done.”

Perhaps not just the Aztecs MVP. This guy from Rancho Bernardo High School is going to win the Ray Guy Award and football’s best punter but there might be something out there even loftier than one of his 80-plus yard bombs.

Araiza has become a bit of a cult hero on social media.

It may have started as a joke, but there’s now a legitimate groundswell of support for a Matt Araiza Heisman Trophy campaign.

“I know it’s never been done in history but there’s always gotta be a first,” says Araiza, chuckling at the suggestion.

This is no joke.

No specialist in the 86-year history of the Heisman Trophy has ever been a finalist. Shoot, no specialist has ever even received a vote. Araiza might change all that.

Now, there is a team component to the Heisman and the fact the Aztecs are undefeated certainly helps his national profile. Longtime San Diego radio host Steve Hartman has a Heisman vote. This week he placed Matt Araiza in his Top-3. But, will he be the first to vote for a kicker/punter?

“If they go undefeated count on it!” says Hartman.

If Matt Araiza keeps doing what he’s doing, Steve might not be the only one lobbing the left-legged Aztec a vote.

It took years for Ray Guy to finally be the first punter inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Matt is using the recognition surrounding him as a way to try and keep changing the way specialists are perceived.

“That’s huge to me. There’s definitely a lot of position bias. I don’t know how else you would say that, but in terms of the amount of scholarships specialists get, it’s less than every other position on the field. We’re usually last pick for a lot of things so, being a part of maybe pushing that narrative that kickers and punters can be as important as anyone else on the team, that’s huge to me. That’s a big goal.”

Odds are the rest of the country is not as progressive as Steve Hartman is and still discounts the guys who are most responsible for 33% of the game of football so Matt likely won’t be winning the nation’s most distinguished trophy.

But, he can be the guy who cracks open the window just a bit, allowing someone else to do it in the future.

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