By Jeff Linville
Mount Airy graduate Tyler Hull has accepted an offer to play football at the University of South Carolina.
The punter drew national attention at a couple of kicking competitions in the past five months. That brought the Gamecocks calling.
In November, Hull competed in the Ray Guy/Prokicker.com kicking championship in Charlotte. He not only had the best numbers at that event, he had the best totals in any of the four Prokicker events across the country.
Then in February, he traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the 10th-annual National Kicking & Snapping Event hosted by Chris Sailer Kicking, a kicking and punting instructional clinic.
Punters competed on Saturday and Sunday that weekend, and Hull was named one of two finalists from Saturday.
He won two of the three events that day: the Last Man Standing and the Survivor competitions.
In the finals, he said he boomed his first 60-yarder, but finished second to Jed Barnett, who is a punter for the California Golden Bears.
While he wanted to win, Hull couldn’t be too disappointed as his high finish drew interest from scouts, including one from Wake Forest and another from South Carolina.
Hull said he went to USC in January on an unofficial visit. He had a chance to check out the campus and meet special teams coach Joe Roberts, who seemed like a pretty nice guy, he said. He said he only briefly got to meet head coach Steve Spurrier, who previously coached at Duke and Florida in the college ranks and the Washington Redskins for two years.
It just so happens that he got hooked on watching the Gamecocks this past fall, Hull pointed out. He wanted to see them play East Carolina in the second week of the season. After that he saw them play several more times on the way to an 11-2 record.
Hull likes the idea of playing in the Southeastern Conference for a team expected to be ranked in the top 10 next fall.
South Carolina had multiple punters on the team last season, but the coaches cut a couple of those players, and this year’s starting punter, Joey Scribner-Howard, is about to graduate.
There is a good opportunity to see playing time right away, Hull believes.
Hull noted that there is a big difference between recruiting a star quarterback and a punter. Colleges show up with scholarship offers for the stars, but teams seldom give out scholarships right away to kickers and punters.
In his case, Hull is being termed a “preferred walk-on.” He doesn’t receive a scholarship up front, but he has been given a spot on the team. He and any other candidates will have an open competition for the starting job. The one who is picked in training camp will earn the scholarship.
While there is an element of risk, Hull said it is actually about as good a deal as a punter from junior college can expect.
When he graduated from Mount Airy in 2010, Hull spent one season playing for Guilford College.
He will enter USC as a junior for classroom purposes, but have three years of eligibility remaining for football.
He said his parents, Jimmy and Robin Hull, were ecstatic about the opportunity. The three have talked about what a good business program USC has, and Hull is interested in the retail business courses.
Also, USC is only about a three-hour trip down I-77 so the parents can drive down for home games.
Another bonus is that USC plays ECU every year, and former teammate Michael Dobson is a running back for the Pirates, so they can play against each other this year and next.
Getting all the paperwork finished for the university was surprisingly involved. Hull said he wanted to thank Mount Airy principal Sandy George and the guidance office for helping him get all the papers in order.
After going through the Ray Guy/Prokicker competitions, Hull said he wanted to contribute to the punting camps and will serve as a Ray Guy instructor this summer to help younger players.