Virginia Tech receiver Danny Coale realizes it’s unusual -- just not to him.
Coale couldn’t tell you the names of any athletes who have doubled as a starting receiver and a starting punter. They’re certainly not easy to find. Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu, who is a starting receiver, Wildcat quarterback and kick returner for the Scarlet Knights, practiced as first-string punter this spring. And Pat McInally was both a starting receiver and punter at Harvard and went on to a long career as a punter with the Cincinnati Bengals.
If there are any more, it has to be a short list. And Coale might add his name to it this fall.
For the second straight season, Virginia Tech needs to find a punter. Scott Demler, Ethan Keyserling, Conor Goulding and Grant Bowden are all options. So is Coale, who averaged a team-best 18.8 yards per catch last year and enters his final season already ranked among the top 10 in school history in receptions and receiving yards.
While it might seem a bit surprising to those who only know Coale as a receiver, punting is a passion he’s had since he was in middle school.
“It wasn’t just something I did,” he said. “It was something I took pride in. I tried to make the ball turn over. I tried to get some height on it and things like that in high school. It’s something I’ve always loved doing.”
Coale was a jack-of-all trades at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Va., where he also returned punts and kickoffs in addition to punting and placekicking, and playing receiver and defensive back.
“Whenever I’d go to the park or the field to throw the football with my dad, we’d always punt a few at the end,” he said. “It was something he did and he kind of taught me the basics to it. I told myself when I committed here that if I ever had the opportunity to do something like this, I would try.”
This spring, he got that opportunity.
Coale said he asked defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who recruited Coale out of high school, if he could try to punt for the Hokies. Foster approved, and the next day Coale gave it a shot. He ended spring ball with a legitimate chance at earning the starting job this fall.
“I’m lucky and thankful I did get the opportunity to,” he said. “We do have four or five other punters so to get in the rotation and the mix and actually be able to punt some in the spring game I thought was pretty awesome. I’m really thankful coach (Frank) Beamer did give me the opportunity to do that.”
“Absolutely,” he said.
Coale hasn’t punted behind a live line since high school, and only has done it about a dozen times since he came to campus, and even then it was just fooling around.
“It will take a lot more work to sharpen everything, but I’m willing to do that,” he said.
If he were to win the starting job, Coale said he doesn’t think it would take anything away from the goals he wants to accomplish in his final season as a receiver. Instead, he said, he thinks it can add to the team.
“If I can get everything down, if I can get quickness, get the ball out, and all those things a punter needs to do, I could help the team there,” he said. “Finding that balance is going to be interesting and probably something I won’t really grasp until camp starts in the fall.”
This past spring, Coale would practice punting during the special teams period at the beginning of practice, and then leave to be with the receivers. He would return to punting again during a team period in the middle of practice.
“I’m far from being great at it, or even good at this point,” he said, “but if I can try and get some things done and sharpen it up, hopefully I’ll be able to help us out a bit.”
And there's certainly nothing unusual about Coale lending a hand.