Commentary

Happy feet

The Colquitts are getting the biggest kick out of the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry

Originally Published: November 26, 2013
By Chris Jones | ESPN The Magazine

Jones IlloMark Matcho for ESPNThe Broncos vs. Chiefs games come down to a face-off between Dustin and Britton Colquitt.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 9 One Day One Game issue. Subscribe today!

BY NOW THEY'D be the Famous Kicking Colquitts if only their family business had given them enough fame. Instead, they've been called the First Family of Fourth Downs, three generations of punters spun out of Knoxville, Tenn., like some mountain-man fable. First came Lester Colquitt, a local legend for his ability to launch objects skyward with his feet. Then came his son Craig, who punted for three years at Tennessee before winning two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers. And now come Craig's thick-legged sons, mirror images of each other: left-footed Dustin, 31, in his ninth season in Kansas City, and right-footed Britton, 28, in his fourth season in Denver.

They were each four-year Volunteers, as was their older cousin Jimmy. That string of dominance alone--a combined 15 seasons of Colquitts, the first four entries in Tennessee's punting record books--would have made for a remarkable enough run. But the Colquitt brothers have gone on to top the NFL's punting ranks as well, the two highest-paid punters in the game, burying rivals for two of the hottest teams in the league. "It's hard to put it into words," Britton says of this season's good fortune. "It's just been the best."

Dustin has had a particularly great year. In addition to the birth of his fifth child in mid-November, he's enjoyed that elusive punter's dream: playing for a winning team that also punts a lot. "I don't know why, but my whole family just loves to punt stuff," Dustin says. "And I've been punting a bunch." After the brothers played the first of this season's two must-watch games against each other, Dustin had punted 62 times, giving him one of the happiest feet in the league.

Britton's leg, meanwhile, is among the least active, thanks to a certain member of that other football family, the one with the arms. He had a relatively busy night against the Chiefs, but he was still on pace to punt just 62 times this entire year, slightly more than half of the 101 punts he launched during Tim Tebow's 2011. During one three-game stretch earlier this season, he punted only three times, including a game against Dallas in which he did not punt once. After, Dustin texted his little brother to tell him good game, having seen only the score. Britton's response came back even quicker than usual: "I didn't punt, you jerk."

That exchange notwithstanding, the Colquitt brothers are incredibly close. They share the same sunny disposition and dry sense of humor. They are even physically similar, 6'3" and within a few pounds of each other, and not much separates their career punting statistics either, even with Britton's altitude advantage. After 449 combined punts at Tennessee, they finished within .002 of a yard of each othe's collegiate average, Britton beating out Dustin at the third decimal place. That's the sort of math that would make less faithful men wonder. "I really think it's something God has blessed our family with," Dustin says.

Their father didn't force them into football, but he did offer quiet backyard lessons in mechanics, in the all-important drop especially. Dustin, who is righthanded despite his left foot, juggled golf balls and brushed his teeth lefthanded to improve his drop touch. "I think genetics play a role," Britton says, referring to the leg strength and flexibility that the brothers share. "But we were also filled with belief." The NFL always seemed within their reach, because football players weren't distant immortals. They were fathers and cousins. (Almost unbelievably, a second cousin, Travis, punted at Marshall.) The Colquitts' fates weren't predetermined, but they didn't have to look too hard for the footsteps they could follow.

Now they stand together, maybe not in the center of the spotlight, but closer to it than they've ever stood before. "I guess this is the situation that has to happen for the punters to be written about," Britton says with a laugh, everything having fallen into its most perfect place. Like every game they play in together, the Colquitts walked out onto the Mile High grass and grabbed each other's shoulders. "Can you believe where we are?" Dustin said, the way he always says it, as though one of the suddenly Famous Kicking Colquitts could have ended up anywhere else.

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Chris Jones is the back-page columnist for ESPN The Magazine. He is also a Writer at Large for Esquire. Follow him on Twitter @MySecondEmpire.

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