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What Erxleben must learn, of course, is that a punter is not paid to use his imagination, not even if he was drafted ahead of several high-dollar quarterbacks and innovative running backs. That is the main reason that punters as a group are the lowest-paid players in the NFL.
Dr. Edward J. Storey was born in Summerville, Mass. on May 10, 1901. Since that time he has witnessed—as player, coach, or fan—a lot of football games. By his own reckoning he has seen everything that can happen when a football strikes a foot. Called Doc since he earned his Ed.D. in health administration from NYU in 1941, Storey has made the study of booting "the prolate spheroid" his obsession. "A lot of my old punters have passed away," he says. "But this kicking business has kept me alive."
Because Doc and I both live in south Florida, he was the obvious choice to help me with my comeback. He accepted the role and within days of our first telephone conversation began sending me letters with instructions on stretching exercises, warmup drills and proper punting attire: thin cotton socks for better impact and a kicking shoe with parallel lacing to create a rifling effect, with the laces tied on the side or back to prevent the knot from touching the ball, and with low cleats on the toe to avoid catching the turf. He sent me articles on self-hypnosis, on the power of imagination (Doc is a great believer in self-motivation), on the structure of the foot, on the drop kick (Doc is an authority on all types of kicking), on bedtime exercises ("Sit down on the side of the bed and place the football on your ankle.... Then try to pass it to the wastepaper can. Do this 100 times or so....").
Doc, I soon learned, is a constant, voluminous, even profound, letter writer. Several times his envelopes were stuffed so full of material that I had to pay postage due. The world according to Doc is enlightening, and everything applies to kicking. Once, after I had written him telling how I'd nearly broken my left ankle jumping off a curb in Chicago, he sent me a treatise on "Motor-Viseo Behavioral Rehearsal," followed by the postscript, "All best wishes for your bad ankle. That is your balance foot, you know."
Though officially retired after 35 years of coaching and school-administration work, Doc is never idle. He lectures Fort Lauderdale businessmen on public speaking; he acts as the chairman of the Brian Piccolo Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame; he presides over at least two kicking camps each summer, in River Falls, Wis. and Chester, Pa.; he writes articles on football for Athletic Journal and other publications; and he gives individual instruction to dozens of aspiring young kickers.
A few years ago The New York Times called Doc "the greatest living authority on punting." According to Doc, who at 5'3" was never a good punter, though he was a decent "bouncing-ball type" runner for Temple while doing postgraduate work on a semi-pro team in the Philadelphia area called the Howards, two major events were responsible for his becoming an expert on punting.
The first occurred shortly after he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1922 with a degree in electrical engineering. Sent to St. John's, Newfoundland to work for Western Union, Doc, who was then known as Shorty, learned of his imminent transfer to a tiny Nova Scotia village in the dead of winter. "I found out there were going to be 35 of us male workers and no young women. That was the end of my engineering career."
Three days after returning to the U.S., Doc got a job as a teacher and football coach at the Powder Point School in Duxbury, Mass. It was the first in a series of high school jobs that eventually led to his appointment in 1926 as Director of Health and Physical Education for the Mamaroneck (N.Y.) public schools and head football coach at Mamaroneck High School. It was in his third season at Mamaroneck that the second major event occurred.
"We were playing Mount Vernon, a team that always beat us badly, and this was the first year I thought we had a chance," he says. "We took the opening kick down to their three but we couldn't score. We held, and their punter had to kick from behind their goal line. Well, he took the ball like this [Doc holds a football with his right hand directly underneath it and his left on one side], the way I teach now, and he booted it over our safety's head. It rolled and rolled and rolled all the way to our 20.