Now at punter, Wyoming’s Dontae Crow embraces nomadic life
LARAMIE -- Dontae Crow is getting used to being a nomad.
A receiver by trade, Crow hasn’t stayed at one position too long for Wyoming this season. He’s been a running back and has also served as a kick returner, at least in practice.
Last week, the sophomore added another one to the list: punter.
Crow got his first career start in place of the injured Tim Zaleski against Hawaii. Ryan Galovich was next up on the depth chart after Zaleski went down with a season-ending knee injury against Boise State, but Wyoming coach Craig Bohl kept his cards close to the vest when discussing what he’d do at the position last week. He said Galovich was the best option, but that he would take a look at anyone on the roster who might be able to punt.
Crow, who also punted during his prep days at Sheridan High School in addition to being an all-state receiver for the Broncs, joined the mix after approaching Bohl with the idea of helping out. He became a viable option after shaking off some of the rust during practice last week. Bohl went back and forth between Galovich and Crow before sending Crow out with the punting team after Wyoming’s second offensive series.
“Even all the way over to the island, we looked at both guys,” Bohl said. “Dontae had punted in high school. He’s got a strong leg.”
Some nerves were admittedly involved on Crow’s initial punt, understandable given his first competitive punt in three years came in the shadow of his own end zone. Crow stood near the goal line with Wyoming facing fourth-and-1 from its own 13-yard line, but he got off a 40-yard punt that he improved on throughout the night.
Crow punted five times in the Cowboys’ 17-13 loss, averaging 43.2 yards with his longest traveling 46 yards. The sample size is small, but Crow’s average is nearly five yards farther than the distance Wyoming got from Zaleski (38.8 yards per punt).
“I was standing there and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve really got to kick it good or else we’re going to be backed up and put the defense in a bad position.’” Crow said of his first punt. “I was nervous, but after that, I was like, ‘OK, I can do this. Just relax. Just play.’”
Helping the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder out was rolling out each time to get off a rugby punt that helps avoid the rush while simultaneously giving the coverage team more time to get down the field. It’s a style that feels most comfortable to Crow, who also played soccer in high school.
“It’s kind of like rolling out and using the same motion you would kicking a soccer ball,” Crow said. “I don’t know. It just feels a lot easier than trying to work on a drop for a traditional punt that has to be perfect. If it comes off your foot wrong at all, it’s going to be bad.”
Crow is still listed as the starting punter on this week’s depth chart, though he said coaches haven’t given him any indication as to whether his latest position change is a permanent one. His first impression was certainly a strong one.
“We’ll continue to look at Dontae,” Bohl said.
At the least, it’s another opportunity for Crow, who’s appeared in just nine games the last two seasons and didn’t play in the previous two while trying to work his way up the depth chart at receiver. His move to running back after the first three games was strictly for emergency depth before Nico Evans and Jevan Bigelow returned from injuries, and he’s yet to return a punt in a game this season.
Maybe punting turns out to be a more permanent thing for Crow. In the meantime, he’s enjoying his versatility.
“It’s kind of like high school,” Crow said. “You get to do a bunch of things like that in high school, so it feels like I’m just back to what I’m used to. Just go out there and have fun again, you know?”