Big Shoes To Fill
By Marissa Huff
Washington State University redshirt senior and starting punter Dan Wagner has some big shoes to fill this season. Wagner will be stepping in after WSU's most successful punter, Reid Forrest, left Pullman to make his name in the NFL. The most interesting element of Wagner's position is the journey he took to get here.
Wagner, a native of Portland, Ore., attended Jesuit High School and led the Crusaders to state championships his junior and senior years, and earned all-league honors as quarterback. Why make the change from full-time quarterback to part-time punter? Versatility.
Wagner came to WSU as a quarterback, but was told by the coaches that the more positions you know the better. With that in mind, he began learning to punt as well as maintained his quarterback skillset. Wagner's father played professionally for the Buffalo Bills and taught him punting skills he used as a foundation upon entering college.
"My dad was a punter in college and taught me a lot growing up," said Wagner "I also learned a lot from [former Cougar Reid Forrest]."
Wagner began focusing more of his time on punting while still practicing as a back-up quarterback. He said it was difficult to find time during practice to dedicate his attention to both positions. Sometimes the punters would be off practicing while the quarterbacks would be working together. It was tough, but Wagner was motivated and wanted to earn playing time.
"I knew learning another position would be an avenue to more playing time," said Wagner. "I thought if I focused and worked towards punting, I could be that guy someday."
Being a backup quarterback does give him an edge over other punters. Wagner said it helps knowing how to throw the ball and it probably gives the coaches something to think about when
it comes to the possibility of trick plays.
"Hopefully it buys me another split second if they hesitate before they try to block the kick," said Wagner.
All of the dedication finally paid off and he is now that guy in the starting punting position. As for being compared to Reid Forrest and the pressure of living up to him, Wagner said he just wants to be the best punter he can be.
"I'm not Reid, and I'm not trying to be him," said Wagner. "We have team goals, and I want to do my part for special teams."
When asked what he strives for everyday, Wagner said he "just wants to kick the ball as high and far as I can. That's all I can do."