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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa punter Jason Baker holds University of Iowa records with 272 punts for 11,304 yards from 1997-2000. More recently, he helped the Hawkeyes uncover talented kicker Keith Duncan from Weddington, North Carolina.
Baker played for seven NFL teams, including Carolina from 2005-12. Somewhere, he saw Duncan and his accurate, powerful right leg and sent a note to Iowa City that landed on the desk of then UI recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace.
“I was previously committed to a school in South Carolina (Furman) and coach Wallace contacted me about a week before the Rose Bowl,” Duncan said. “He wanted to touch base after the game and we did.”
Wallace offered the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Duncan a preferred walk-on opportunity, which Duncan accepted.
“I came up here and visited and it was kind of hard to say no to everything,” he said.
Duncan emerged as the Hawkeyes’ kicker for point-after and field goal opportunities. Through three games, he has made all 15 PAT attempts and is 1-for-1 with a 22-yard field goal against Miami (Ohio). Eighteen points ties for second on the team in scoring.
“I haven’t been tested all that much,” Duncan said. “We haven’t had the opportunity because we have been scoring a lot of touchdowns, which is always nice. Hopefully I stay consistent and calm.”
Duncan converted 22-of-29 field goals as a senior at Weddington High School, including five from 50-or-more yards. He made seven field goals of 50-or-more yards in high school.
“He looks very comfortable and unfazed out there, basically the way he looks in practice every day,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It is a compliment to him the way he has started. He has come in and the transition has been seamless.”
“He looks very comfortable and unfazed out there, basically the way he looks in practice every day. It is a compliment to him the way he has started. He has come in and the transition has been seamless.” — Kirk Ferentz, UI head football coach
“As a kicker, it’s a love-hate relationship and a make-or-break kind of thing,” he said. “I am hoping for one this year but I’m happy as long as I do my job.”
Seemingly wise beyond his 18 years, Duncan is quick to acknowledge snapper Tyler Kluver and holder Ron Coluzzi.
“Any missed kick kind of gets you down,” Duncan said. “Ron Coluzzi, our punter, and Tyler Kluver have done a great job of keeping me focused as a freshman kicker. (If you experience a miss) you have to pick your head up and go kick one in the net. You will always get another kick.”
Since arriving in camp, Duncan has come in contact with both Baker and former Hawkeye kicker Nate Kaeding. Kaeding holds the school record for career points (373), making 166 PATs and 67 field goals from 2000-03. Duncan and Baker talk multiple times every week and whenever Kaeding makes an appearance at practice, Duncan listens.
“(Baker) has been a great coach and mentor,” Duncan said. “He is a great guy to talk to for mental help. Nate and Jason Baker have made a huge impact on me.”
Duncan smiles when asked if he is recognized by students around campus. The “Iowa Football” backpack gives him away and frequently elicits questions.
“I don’t look like a football player, so there are a lot of people who ask, ‘Oh, you play football?’ Duncan said. “But I have had some people come up and say, ‘Great job on Saturday,’ that kind of stuff.”
The Hawkeyes open Big Ten play Sept. 24 against Rutgers at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:01 a.m. (CT). To purchase tickets for Iowa’s Homecoming game against Northwestern on Oct. 1, click HERE.