Tyler Hull rarely gets much of a break during the year.
The redshirt senior punter for the University of South Carolina and Mount Airy native was able to carve out some time on the weekends in May to return to his hometown.
Hull practiced at Wallace Shelton Stadium earlier this month — booming kicks with a tight spiral that seemed like they were a mile up in the air.
“I try to come home in May every weekend if I am not helping coaches on recruiting visits or anything,” Hull said. “I like to come home and see everybody, and try to visit my mom and dad. They come to the games, but I don’t get to see them much until after the bowl game.”
Hull said the Mount Airy coaches allowed him to use the weight room and he also spent some time kicking on Thursdays and Fridays.
During the rest of the spring, Hull’s schedule has been crammed full.
He said he is usually up at 6 a.m., he gets breakfast, then goes to the weight room and he’ll either lift or do stadium stairs. From there he does classwork for three hours, then comes home to relax. In the afternoon/evenings, Hull will get in touch with the team’s long snappers and return men and work with them.
“That’s usually a light day,” he said. “I try to watch what I eat, and I do yoga classes. I’m always doing stuff.”
It’s not all about school and football for Hull, who drag races on the weekends with his dad Jimmy.
“It’s something me and my dad have done for years,” he said. “He’s been racing for 20 years or so. I’ve been racing since I was eight in junior dragster.”
Hull, an economics major, said he plans to graduate by the end of the summer.
Hull is the projected starter for the 2014 season, which opens Aug. 28 against Texas A&M. South Carolina has gone 11-2 in each of the last three seasons and last year finished fourth in the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound punter recalled a game on Oct. 27, 2012 that jumped out.
“We were up 38-35 on Tennessee and backed up to the 15,” he said. “I had to punt. They had huge rush, Cordarrelle Patterson, who is now with the Vikings, was the returner. I think it ended up being a 69-yard net punt.”
The huge kick pushed the Volunteers back and South Carolina held on to win the game. Hull received the game ball afterward.
Special teams don’t typically get much publicity, which is just fine with Hull, who said he prefers to go unnoticed.
“If I don’t get any boos then I’ve had a good game,” he said with a chuckle. “If your team nets above 40 yards with no returns you’ve had a great game. Very rarely do you go unnoticed.”
It’s hard to ignore the success Hull has enjoyed his high school and college career.
He has started the last two years for the Gamecocks, and he has booted 100 punts over the last two seasons. In high school, Hull was a two-time 1A all-state selection and he holds numerous Mount Airy kicking records.
Hull said when he gets the chance he attends high school games.
“Some of the kickers, if they want some help I try to give back a little bit and help them out,” he said. “I worked a little bit with (Bears punter/placekicker) Mitchell Brown last year, and he improved a lot. I enjoy that a lot.”
Hull was a member of the Bears team that reached the state 1A finals in 2009. Not everybody thought Hull would wind up at a big-time college football program in the powerful SEC.
“Coming from a small town, in high school a lot of people said I couldn’t make it,” Hull said. “I was glad to set an example. (Former Mount Airy star running back) Michael Dobson, who went to East Carolina, once he did it, I knew I could possibly have a chance.”
Hull was the placekicker for the Guilford College Quakers in 2010, attended Surry Community College in 2011, and walked on at South Carolina in 2011. It didn’t take long for Hull to establish himself as the Gamecocks’ top punter. Patrick Fish, out of Shelby, is listed second on the spring depth chart.
Not that Hull is content to sit tight at No. 1.
“It’s my fifth year, and I’ve started since I was a sophomore, but I always go through every season thinking I’m on the bottom trying to work myself up,” Hull said. “I started in the spring game, but they’ll bring some freshmen in, and try to get them some experience. I’ve been helping the coach recruit some punters. I hope they can compete with me. (Competition) always brings the best out of everybody.”
The Gamecocks return all of their special teams performers from a year ago.
South Carolina is now preparing for life after Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. Hull has some personal goals for the upcoming season.
“We lost a bunch of good players. We lost the best player in the country, Jadeveon. But we’ve got some guys behind them who are just as good,” Hull said. “I want to try to improve on some hang time things, distances. I want to hopefully try out for the next level.”