East Surry punter Dustin Holder has announced he is attending Gardner-Webb next autumn.
Dustin said he had applied to the university last fall because he thinks they have a great business program. He was accepted academically in December, then the football team came calling about his strong right leg.
Dustin has been in local sports leagues since Little League, said East Coach Dave Diamont. “He’s always been able to punt, but this year the ball just started exploding off his foot.”
As a seventh-grader, Dustin wanted to play for the school football team, but he had broken his arm and was unable to try out. He was back for the eighth grade and played throughout high school.
In his sophomore year, he began punting for the team. He said he has been to a special teams camp at UNC, but hasn’t had a punting trainer or regular lessons.
Some football players don’t think of kickers and punters as football players, but Dustin played offense and defense, too, for Diamont. He played receiver, which in the Cardinals’ run-heavy attack meant a lot of blocking. He also could help out in the secondary on defense.
Asked about his favorite plays, the first one that springs to mind has nothing to do with punting.
Against North Surry his junior year, a Greyhound made an interception and was trying to run it back when Dustin laid him out with a resounding hit. The memory of that jarring tackle brings a smile to his lips.
As for kicking, he recalled the game against eventual state 2A champion West Stokes. Having trouble moving the ball against the tough defense, the team turned to his leg eight times, and he averaged an impressive 44 yards per try.
“We weren’t real good this past year,” admitted Diamont, “so we needed a good punter to get us out of trouble — a lot.”
A play that is sure to stand out for Mount Airy was a near safety in the season finale.
Backed up inside his own red zone, Dustin reached up for a high snap, but couldn’t pull it in. The ball bounded back to the Cardinals’ goal line with a couple of Mount Airy defenders breaking through the line.
Dustin picked up the ball and circled left away from the would-be tacklers. Then he unleashed a bomb of a kick all the way back out to midfield.
One of the Bear coaches commented to his players about what an incredible kick that was under duress.
At the end of the season, he was named Northwest Conference specialist of the year. He added a second all-conference honor earlier this week for golf.
The son of Ricky and Crystal Holder said he knew that wherever he chose to continue his studies, he wanted to play football as well.
He sent out videos of his punting prowess to some coaches and asked his own coaches for help.
Diamont said he and his staff attend clinics to learn more about their craft. Often there are college coaches there at these events, so he tries to talk about his best players. He said he pitched Dustin’s abilities to a few colleges.
However, there’s not a lot of scholarship money out there for punters, kickers and longsnappers, the coach pointed out.
Dustin said he has spoken with special teams coach Tucker Tejkl, and he will compete with another incoming freshman to see who travels with the team.
He said he would love the chance to play receiver, too, but knows he isn’t quite fast enough for college defenses.
Still, Diamont said he is really excited that the young man has the opportunity to continue punting.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.