B. J. Sander

2003 Ray Guy Award Winner

B. J. Sander had big shoes to fill in 2003. As the Buckeyes’ punter, he faced the daunting task of replacing graduated All-American Andy Groom. Groom had been sensational in 2002 averaging 45 yards per kick on 60 attempts and repeatedly pinning opponents deep in their own territory with his “Groomer Boomers.” He was a key factor in the Buckeyes’ run to a 14-0 record and the national championship.

But Sander’s shoes seemed to fit just fine. In a storybook season, he averaged 43.3 yards per punt, was voted to a first-team berth on the All-Big Ten team and became the first Buckeye to win the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best collegiate punter.

From a pure numbers point, Sanders was magical. Of his 82 kicks, a phenomenal 39 were downed inside the opposing 20-yard line. That figure led the nation. Additionally, 16 of his punts were fair caught, meaning just 31 of his punts were even returned.

Sander led the Big Ten and was fourth nationally in net punting. Like Groom, he was a master at giving the Buckeyes good field position and allowing the Ohio State defense to dominate a game.

Two of his best efforts came late in the year. Against Purdue in Ohio State’s final home game of the season, he punted 10 times, downing seven of those inside the 20 and five inside the 10. At Michigan, where Ohio State athletes establish their legacies, he averaged 49.1 yards per punt on nine kicks.

Sanders had five kicks of 60 or more yards, including a career best of 68 yards against San Diego State. But distance told only part of the story.

“What impressed me most about B.J. was his unselfishness,” said Ray Guy at the College Football Awards Show in Orlando. “Oh, he can kick it a long way, but when the situation called for him to sacrifice distance for placement, he never hesitated to do what was best for the team. For me, he defines what a punter ought to be.”