If punting doesn’t work out for Mitch Wishnowsky, maybe he can find a career as a linebacker.
The San Francisco 49ers rookie is getting his first taste of NFL action this preseason and took full advantage of a chance to make an impression on “Monday Night Football.”
While handling kickoff duty in the third quarter, Wishnowsky sent a ball into the end zone that Broncos kick returner Devontae Jackson decided to return.
This was a bad decision.
Big blow from 49ers punter
Jackson dodged the first 49ers tackler to carry the ball past the 20-yard line. He would not evade the second San Francisco tackle attempt.
Wishnowsky made a beeline down the middle of the field after kicking off to find Jackson head-on at the 23-yard line, where he promptly put an end to the kick return.
Wishnowsky squared up, lowered his shoulders and delivered a textbook tackle that sent Jackson flying backward and on the turf in what must have been a throwback to his days playing Aussie rules football growing up in Western Australia.
Wishnowsky switched to punting from Aussie rules
A chronic shoulder issue forced Wishnowsky to give up the sport at 18, but he took advantage of the opportunity to transfer his skills as a specialist for the American version of football, where he thrived as a punter at Utah, earning All-America honors and winning the Ray Guy award as the country’s top punter.
His success paid off when the 49ers made him a fourth-round pick in April’s draft. All indictions point to Wishnowsky becoming a special teams star in San Francisco.
He’s already earning attention for his hang time at practice.
Rising special teams star
49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor, who was working with the punt return team during summer drills, described Wishnowsky as “filthy” to the San Francisco Examiner.
“He has some serious hang time,” Taylor said. “I feel like I’m sitting there waiting for it to come down for way too long. Then once you’re there for too long you start overthinking it. That’s what makes him good.”
Special teams coach Richard Hightower told the Examiner his arsenal of punts have the potential to flummox opposing returners.
“He has balls that he can kick that fall different ways that can give a returner the illusion that it’s going one way and that it will go a different way,” Hightower said.
As he demonstrated on Monday, Wishnowsky is a more-than-capable kickoff specialist, and he’ll be holding field goals for kicker Robbie Gould.
But it’s his punting that will pay the bills and potentially make him a Pro Bowler.
In the meantime, laying out opposing returners will raise his profile and certainly earn the respect of his teammates.
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