Set to make his NFL debut, Matt Ammendola knew Sunday was going to be a special day full of firsts.
Instead of kicking field goals, however, the undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State ended up setting an unexpected football milestone.
When second-year punter Braden Mann went down with a left knee injury in the first quarter, Ammendola was the next man up, thrust into a situation that he's quite literally never been in before.
"I've actually never punted, which is the craziest thing," Ammendola told reporters on Monday. "It was a whirlwind going in there."
That's right. Through high school and college, leading up to his first game on an NFL sideline, Ammendola had never punted in a game.
The 24-year-old prefaced that he's worked on punting in offseason workouts, trying to be the most versatile kicker that he can be. With that in mind, Sunday would've been memorable either way. But Ammendola didn't just fill in for Mann, he unleashed six booming punts, one that went as far as 65 yards.
"You never want to see a teammate go down, especially my punter, my holder, but sometimes you just got to kind of step in and just go about it," he said, calling the 65-yard bomb surreal.
Ammendola won New York's kicking job during the preseason, showcasing his huge leg in training camp. Head coach Robert Saleh praised the youngster after Sunday's loss, calling it a "terrific" performance in the face of adversity.
"I thought he punted the heck out of it for not really practicing it," Saleh said. "Showed no pale face or anything, just stepped right in and did a really good job. Hats off to him. Wish we could have got him a field goal opportunity in there somewhere, but thought he did a great job."
With Mann expected to miss the next four-to-six weeks with a knee sprain, the head coach added on Monday that the Jets will be working out some punters to fill the void.
Asked if he thinks he has what it takes to be a punter full-time, Ammendola said consistency would be his biggest issue. Give him some time to hone in on his craft, however, and he thinks he'd be just fine.
Besides, it was the offseason work that set Ammendola up for success on Sunday, even if he had no idea something like this was coming. It'll be a tremendous story of preparation for his kids some day down the road.
"You study for a test, more than likely you'll do well," Ammendola explained. "With kicking, it's the same thing. I've been studying this technique for a long time. And you never know when you're going to have that pop quiz. And you just got to be ready."
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