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Continued: Their best punter ever

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 30, 2008 - 1:15 AM

Chris Kluwe would be the first to admit that punting is a thankless job that goes overlooked by most NFL fans.

"When I come in, it's pretty much a signal for everybody to get up, grab a beer and go to the bathroom," he said. "But that's the life of an NFL punter, I guess."

In Minnesota, most people recognize Adrian Peterson as the best running back in the 47-year history of the franchise. What they've missed while in the bathroom is Chris Kluwe becoming the best punter in team history at the ripe old age of 27.

"I don't want to sound immodest, but I think you could make that claim if you wanted to," Kluwe said. "I've broken pretty much all of the records I can so far. And I'm trying to get better every year."

His goals are to become the leader in all the positive career statistical categories while claiming the top three spots for single seasons and games.

"I know all of the team records because I look at them in the locker room before games," Kluwe said. "The team puts the game programs on our chairs, so I sit there and read them for something to do."

Kluwe's latest record came Sunday, when he finished the season with a 47.6-yard gross average, breaking Bobby Walden's 44-year-old record of 46.4. Kluwe's career gross average (44.5) also moved into first ahead of Harry Newsome's mark of 43.8.

On Sept. 28 at Tennessee, Kluwe set a team record with six punts of 50 yards or more. Two weeks later, he tied his record with six more vs. the Lions. With a team-record 35 on the season, Kluwe has tied Greg Coleman (1978-87) and Mitch Berger (1996-2001) for the career record of 99.

Kluwe also set the single-season record of 34 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line a year ago. With 23 more this year, he's third on the career list with 102. He also has had only one punt blocked in 318 attempts.

"It's funny," Kluwe said. "No matter what I've done, most people think of me as the guy on 'Monday Night Football' who couldn't kick the ball out of bounds in New Orleans."

On Oct. 6, the Saints' Reggie Bush returned two punts for touchdowns and nearly got a third one. Vikings coach Brad Childress was livid that Kluwe didn't do as instructed and kick the ball out of bounds. Childress criticized Kluwe publicly after the game and tried out four punters two days later.

"Yeah, I was a little peeved at him," Kluwe said. "You never like to be called out like that, especially when it's something you shouldn't be called out for. But this is the NFL. If he wanted a new punter, it's his right to look for a new one."

Childress stuck with Kluwe. "He's had a good year," Childress said. "When you look at how many balls he's dropped inside the 20-yard line or had an opportunity to drop inside the 20-yard line, like the one we had there at the 3-inch line [against the Giants], you see that he's a good team player."

Kluwe is developing a following on his radio show on 93X.

"I think more people like to hear me talk about playing video games than football," said Kluwe, an expert at many video games. "I've played video games since I was 4 years old. I play them a lot more than I kick a football. I kick the ball about 45 minutes a day. I play video games about five or six hours a day. But that's OK. I don't watch TV."

Kluwe loves the video game "World of Warcraft." I'd explain it, but I'm still trying to figure out Pong.

"Back when [Bengals receiver] Chad Johnson changed his name to Ocho Cinco, I told the guys at 93X that I was going to change my name to Chris 'World of Warcraft,' " Kluwe said. "They said that's too long. So they started calling me Chris 'Warcraft.' I could make a lot of money if I changed my name to that."

Kluwe is doing pretty well for himself. Last year, he signed an $8.3 million extension through 2013. All the Vikings got in return was the best punting the franchise has ever seen.

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