Nick Novak had what former San Diego State kicker and punter Matt Araiza wants... a long successful National Football League (NFL) career. So, for the past 4 months, Araiza has been working with Novak to get ready for the NFL.
"It's been great," Araiza told NBC 7. "I've just turned into more of a pro."
When asked what he's improved at the most in working with Novak, Araiza used a golf analogy.
"I've added some different clubs to the bag is the best way to describe it. I've learned a lot more punts, added some hang-time, added some direction and shortened my steps."
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To hear Araiza use the term “hang time” is interesting, because Araiza’s long, line drive, laser like punts earned him so many accolades and the "Punt God" nickname, but in the NFL those low punts won’t always fly.
"Did we give him more hang-time? Absolutely," Novak says." Now he can hit that direction punt with hang-time. We made that consistent 50-55 yard punt with 5 or 4.8 second hang-time, that was just kind of what we were shooting for."
By adding hang-time, and now being able to show one way and punt the other, Araiza says he’s more "conformed" to the NFL style, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up on 80-yard line drive punts and then chasing down the returner on coverage.
"I do think situationally that driver club should be used more, especially I think if you have a punter you can trust in coverage that makes a huge difference. We'll see if I get a few tackles in coverage early on maybe they'll let me let the ball fly a little bit more."
Araiza and Novak have been working out at the Marantha Christian high school football field, traditionally not an NFL hot spot, but that’s changed with Araiza kicking it at the small school in north county as NFL team routinely come for a private workout.
Novak says 7 NFL teams have done private workouts with Araiza.
"About 22% of the league has worked him out privately in this last 3 week stretch. It's been exciting."
Most predictions have Araiza being drafted between rounds 3 and 7, but being drafted high doesn’t guarantee an NFL roster spot. Araiza understands and embraces that he’s going to have to compete to win a job.
"Coming out on a field by myself and punting is not the most fun thing in the world, but once you add the pressure of a coach here, or someone to compete with, that's when it gets fun. I'm ready for it and I'm excited."
Novak, who kicked 10 NFL seasons, says Araiza is ready for it too.
"There's no situation too high for him. He's ready, he's grounded, he's prepared, it's the same game, it's just now you're in the NFL. Don't make it anything bigger than it is just do your job. I think he'll have no problem doing that, I'm excited for him."
The first round of the NFL Draft is Thursday, the following rounds will take place on Friday and Saturday.