# How does a punter impart spin?

Does the football go off the pinkie side of the foot or the big toe part of the foot? Clearly, kicking a football with the top of your foot to give it the biggest punch would result in some sort of knuckleball. And, clearly, real punters, i.e. college and pro, have developed the skill that causes the ball to spiral and really travel far. On slow motion views, it seems to me to come off the “fingers” side, but it seems like you’d get more impulse kicking off the “thumb” side. Or do they do both? How do they do it?

You should punt the ball off of your instep with the foot bent forward.

You can learn to be a punter at the site below:
http://www.goodfor3.com/punting02.htm

According to that site, holding the ball parallel to the ground but with the front of the ball turned left a couple inches is what imparts the spiral. That says to me that the ball basically is rolled off the end of the foot and that’s what actually causes it to spin. Otherwise, if you simply kicked it straight on - with your instep, as you say - you would end up kicking a knuckleball. Twisting it slightly to the left indicates to me that the spiral is caused by that turn, meaning that its spin is from the foot, up behind, and over the top of the ball as it moves off the foot.

No definitive answer to your question… but there was a Mythbusters episode where they were testing the myth if a helium filled ball would travel farther than an air filled ball. A cool thing about the episode is that they had a punter from a local university kicking the ball in front of a high speed camera so you really got to see what was happening in detail. I don’t remember what side of the foot the ball came off of to impart spin, but since Mythbusters is on a ba-zillion times a week, you might be able to catch that episode.

Annotated Mythbusters is the answer for all your half remembered Mythbusters episodes.

Makes me wonder about Tom Dempsey, who had no toes and, therefore, couldn’t really work it that way. He kicked straight-on with what was basically a square-footed shoe with padding. And he kicked the longest field goal in history (although that was back in the days of place-kicking). A link to the video is below, but it looks as though it might have been a spiraling kick, somehow.

But Dempsey didn’t punt. did he? Place kickers seem to usually kick the ball end over end–not with a spiral.

But place kicks (such as field goals) tend to travel on different trajectories. Especially if they are being toe-kicked like Dempsey did.

But you can watch the field goal at the beginning of this clip:

It’s not easy to pick out, but the ball is definitely going end over end. But it’s going really fast because the kicker struck it well.

I never punted past high school, but I can hopefully shed some light on the OP. In the ideal punt, when kicking for distance, the ball spirals up and down. I can still make this happen routinely if the ball hits directly on the top of my foot. There were two main factors that would let me know when I got off a crappy punt before the ball got higher than my head. The first was where the ball made contact with my foot and the second was my follow through. If I hit the ball of the side, it would go flailing harmlessly out of bounds about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. If I slipped or took a misstep then I knew the ball was going to take an ugly path either out of bounds or really short. Even now, when I make proper contact and take the right steps, the ball travels perfectly. Distance and placement is another issue.

Place kicks and kickoffs do go end over end. This is part of the reason why it is significantly more difficult to properly field a punt than it is to field a kickoff.

It comes off the outside of the foot. I was a back-up punter in highschool and was extremely accurate. I could kick a spiral to you as you ran a route. But the starting punter (also first-team all-state fullback) could kick the ball much higher and further.