Blue Raider punter earns national ranking
by SARALYN NORKUS Banner Sports Writer
Jan 19, 2014 | 1241 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Football season may have come to a close a couple months ago, but that doesn’t mean that Cleveland’s junior punter Zach Lee is giving his foot a rest.

For Lee, who averaged around 39 yards per punt this season, the hard work and practice has continued and will continue for quite some time.

In December, Lee had the opportunity to participate in the Kohl’s Southern Showcase in Atlanta and then was invited to the Kohl’s Underclassman Challenge which was held in the beginning of this month in Tampa, Fla.

“I attended the Kohl’s Southern Showcase camp, which ranks you nationally. I kicked for the coaches there and if you do well enough in front of them, then you get to kick in front of the main director of the camp, Jamie Kohl. I was one of seven punters out of 180 chosen to compete in Tampa with about 50 other kickers, snappers and punters,” Lee explained. “I really enjoy competing. You pick up a lot of things from these camps by talking to the guys and the coaches.”

After his performance at the Underclassman Challenge, where he averaged 41.5 yards per punt, Lee was ranked 12th nationally by for the class of 2015.

“Currently I’m the 12th punter in the nation. It feels good. I’ve been working a lot, but I’m still not where I want to be yet,” Lee stated. “There’s always room for improvement and with each kick I’m always saying that I can do better. Still, it’s nice to see the hard work paying off and knowing that I’m getting somewhere.”

Lee plans to attend another Kohl’s Showcase camp in the summer.

“There is a spring showcase and then one in the summer in Milwaukee that I will be heading to. There are about 500 kids who attend and are ranked up there,” Lee said.

During the 2013 football season, Cleveland head coach Ron Crawford felt that Lee saw improvements and was able to become more consistent.

“I thought he saw a tremendous amount of improvement from his sophomore season. He became very consistent and saw fewer misses then in the past,” Crawford stated. “It takes a whole lot more mental toughness then people give them credit for. Zach will be a real weapon for us next year.”

Coach Crawford also noted that an ankle injury sustained at East Hamilton in the TSSAA quarterfinals hurt Lee’s average.

The Raider punter has been fortunate enough to have a variety of positive influences and role models throughout his football career.

“Brent Hall, who coached Caleb Houston, is the one that kind of got me into punting and has been a pretty big influence. I’ve gotten to train with James Wilhoit, who was the kicker at University of Tennessee in 2006. My head coach Ron Crawford also helps me out a lot,” Lee reflected.

With his senior year fast approaching, Lee has dreams of continuing his punting career at a Division I, like the University of Tennessee, or Division II school.

“I’m open to playing local, but it would be cool to go and play at a college across the country and get new experiences,” Lee declared.

While having quite a successful junior season, Lee is working hard to further his skills to ensure an even better final season as a Blue Raider.

“I want to average somewhere in the mid 40’s, like 43 to 45 yards per punt would be a good average for me,” Lee commented. “I try to hit the field everyday and start with technique and drills. I work on doing drops and contact with the ball. I do a progression and kick about 40 balls a day. I also work on stretching and flexibility, which I really believe is an important part that helps you get an edge. I train with the team doing strength work and weightlifting everyday.”