Monday, October 24, 2011

Mante reflects on UFL experience

Ever since graduating from Yale in 2010, all Tom Mante wanted was a chance to prove he was good enough to punt at the professional level.

Although he failed to stick following a tryout with the NFL's Chicago Bears, Mante finally got his wish when he beat out two other punters to earn a spot with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.

The UFL's financial instability and an elbow injury limited Mante to just three games but he hopes it was enough to draw interest from the NFL.

Mante struggled in his first game, averaging just 30.4 yards on five punts including a 17-yard effort. Mante chalked that effort up to a case of first-game jitters.

"The first game that we played against Virginia, I was nervous and a bit anxious," Mante said. "I was doing too much thinking instead of just going out there and punting. After that, I took a step back and realized I was putting too much pressure on myself. After that week of practice, I got a lot more comfortable with our snapper and our protection. I think that showed because in the last (two) games that I played, I averaged 43 yards a punt."

Mante only punted once for 39 yards in the next game against Sacramento. Against Las Vegas, Mante had punts of 50 and 53 yards and finished with an average of 43 yards on the five punts. In the three games, Mante averaged 39.3 yards on 17 punts.
"I was happy with the way I finished the season, being at the 43-yard mark but there is definitely room for some improvement," Mante said. "That is what the offseason is for and hopefully I can start making the corrections now.

"It is obviously something I have been preparing for a long time, since graduation," Mante said. "It was a feeling that I definitely relished. Playing for four years at Yale, you kind of take it for granted being out on the field. When you have the opportunity to compete with all of these pro caliber players, it is quite the experience. I took in every single moment of it. I didn’t let the moment get ahead of me. The first day, I was pretty nervous after not playing for about a year and a half. That first practice was a little nerve wracking but after hitting the first couple of punts, everything kind of came back naturally to me. It was validation of all the hard work I put in over the last year and a half so that was a great experience for me. It was one thing to get the job but another to hold onto it."


The UFL canceled its final two weeks of the regular season as a cost-saving move so there is no guarantee the league will even be around in 2012. After getting a taste of pro football, Mante isn't ready to abandon his dreams of a pro football career just yet.

"It is up in the air.," Mante said in reference to his football future "That is kind of out of my control. I was waiting for my next opportunity whether a guy goes down in the NFL. I am going to send my agent all the film I had from all my practices and games. We are going to do the best we can to throw it out to teams. It is just a matter of staying ready. I am hoping something is going to happen, it is just a matter of when and be prepared for it. The next step is to wait for a workout whether it is mid season or after the season as a futures contract."

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