ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Craig Colquitt, who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, feels like he handed down a family business to his sons Dustin and Britton.
The brothers each signed offseason deals with the Chiefs and Broncos, respectively, that made them the highest-paid punters in the NFL at nearly $4 million a year — about 45 times as much as their father ever earned in the pros.
The Colquitts are to punting what the Mannings are to passing, and this first family of punters had an inauspicious start — a safety on the patriarch's very first punt at the University of Tennessee in 1975.
Craig was 21, having worked at a department store for two years after high school, and the Volunteers were playing Maryland.
Punting from his end zone, "I was so nervous, the ball hit my hands, hit my facemask and went straight up," Craig recounted. "And just as I grabbed it I could see this guy coming off my right side. So, I fell down and he fell on top of me."
Time to go back to stocking shelves, he thought.
"I really wanted to run out the back of the stadium because I figured this is the end for me," Craig said.
George Cafego, Tennessee's renowned kicking coach, instead greeted him with a hearty, "Great job!"
Those two words would be repeated many times over the next three seasons as Craig, driven by Cafego's vote of confidence, rewrote the school record book, averaging 42.5 yards per punt — a mark that would be bested by three more Colquitts.
His nephew, Jimmy, averaged 43.9 yards from 1981-84. Dustin averaged 42.567 from 2001-04 and Britton, 42.569 from 2005-08.
After Craig's senior year in 1977, Chuck Noll personally worked him out before drafting him in the third round.
By 1979, he had two Super Bowl rings.
He averaged 41.3 yards in six seasons in the pros, earning $85,000 in his final year in 1984, before settling down with his wife, Anne, to raise a family in Tennessee.
He made a brief return to the NFL in 1987 when the players went on strike. He was in financial straits at the time and the chance to get back into the game — and more importantly, to earn an $8,000 weekly paycheck — spurred him to cross the picket line.
In his one game with the Indianapolis Colts, he had the only blocked punt of his pro career.
That was the low point of an otherwise joyful journey across America's football fields.
Looking back, Craig, who's now a sales rep for a janitorial company in Nashville, said that safety he took as a sophomore in college was the turning point in his life.
Outpatient ROBOTIC HYSTERECTOMY. Trust an experienced Robotic Surgeon.