The Big Interview - Packers' punter Tim Masthay
31 December 2015|Tottenham Hotspur
One of the biggest matches of the NFL season so far takes place in Green Bay on Sunday - and a Spurs fan will be in the middle of the action.
A long-term 'soccer' fan, Tim Masthay is a relatively new convert to our world of Tottenham Hotspur but admits he's now 'hooked' after starting to watch the Premier League regularly 18 months ago.
One of the top punters in the NFL, Tim will tune into our fixture at Everton just hours before Green Bay Packers take on Minnesota Vikings in a match that will decide the NFL's NFC North title - and home advantage for the play-offs.
A Superbowl winner in 2011, Tim has racked up numerous records in his career with Green Bay and he took time out from his preparations for Sunday's huge game to talk Packers, punting, Spurs and Superbowl..
Before we speak about Spurs, tells us about your NFC North title-decider against Minnesota Vikings on Sunday...
Tim: "This is for the divisional championship and for a home game in the play-offs against one of our divisional rivals, so it’s a huge game. We’re excited for it. There is an opportunity to make a big stride going into the play-offs."
The Superbowl is obviously the long game in the NFL but how important is it to win the divisional title?
Tim: "It’s important because it gives you home-field advantage in the play-offs and that's the same in any sport - you’ve less travel, your home crowd behind you, your own stadium, your own locker room, so all those factors come into it. For us, to win going into the play-offs and to have that momentum would be a very positive thing."
Below: Tim in punting action for the Packers
What is post-season like in the NFL?
Tim: "I’ve been fortunate because every year I’ve been with the Packers, we’ve been in the play-offs, so that’s six years and the Packers were regularly in the play-offs before I got here. The play-offs are like a whole other deal, the games are electric. There is a lot of energy in every game and super-intense competition but in the play-offs it’s all the best teams, the fans are going insane, everyone knows it’s do or die – win or go home. I’ve always felt that the atmosphere is a little more charged whenever you get to the play-offs."
You've seen both sides - a Superbowl win (in 2011) but also some painful play-off defeats...
Tim: "When you win, as a player, it’s the highest of the highs. The satisfaction level in achieving that ultimate goal is just a beautiful thing. But if you lose, in an instant your season is over. That's a tough thing to digest."
What's it like to play in the Superbowl - the biggest single sporting event in the world?
Tim: "I was a rookie in 2011. I remember that first punt, even through pre-game there is so much energy in that stadium, it’s the ultimate game and it’s probably the most nervous I’ve ever been on a punt in my career. After that, I settled down and it felt like a normal game. Just knowing what’s on the game, knowing if you win your name is etched in history forever and with the Packers no less, a storied franchise here, that made it all the more special. When we won, the level of professional satisfaction, I’ve not felt something like that before."
Does it feel like the biggest sporting event in the world?
Tim: "At the start of the game you think ‘wow, this is the Superbowl’ but our Head Coach (Mike McCarthy) did a great job leading up to that week to just focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers, because at the end, it’s a 60-minute football game. Outside of that, the pre-game is different, there is all sorts going on. You stay in the city for a week rather than flying in the day before but as I said, at the end, it’s still a football game."
How did you get into supporting Tottenham Hotspur?
Tim: "For me, it started I guess about a year and a half ago and a few things happened all at the same time. Spurs signed Deandre Yedlin, I’d just been watching him play so well for the USA in the World Cup. I’m a huge soccer fan and I’ve been watching the US national team since I was a little kid. I also have a sponsorship with Under Armour and you guys are also with Under Armour. Then I changed TV packages to where I could get every single EPL game, so I got every single Tottenham game. So it was you guys signing Yedlin, Under Armour and then TV. Then I realised you also had Brad Friedel. Hugo Lloris was number one, but Friedel was on the roster as well and that intrigued me because I’d been watching him since I was younger. Those things drew me in."
Do you have any favourite matches so far?
Tim: "My first poignant memory was a Europa League fixture against Asteras Tripolis at White Hart Lane. Harry Kane scored a hat-trick and Erik Lamela scored an insanely awesome goal (his rabona). Then I remember Hugo Lloris got a red card late in the game and Harry went in goal. I remember watching that game and after that I was hooked. Since then, I’ve either watched or listened to every game. It’s been a real blast."
Below: Tim carries the ball on a rare fake punt play last week against Arizona - he made the first down!
So you are officially hooked!
Tim: "Yes I am! I’m looking at my cell phone now and I’ve got a Tottenham Hotspur cover on it! Our Christmas was a Tottenham theme, my wife got me watch and a hat, I got her a top and I got the kids a bunch of Chirpy stuff. We’re having a lot of fun with it. One of my team-mates is a Manchester City fan and we had a bet of around $20 (when the teams played in October) and I used it to buy a biography about Spurs, so I’ll be learning more about the history of the club as well soon."
Imagine if one day you played at our new stadium - we've an agreement with the NFL to host a minimum of two regular season games per year once our new stadium is complete in 2018.
Tim: "Imagine that! That would be a blast. That would be ‘dreamland’ as I think you might say! I’d love to come and watch a Spurs game soon and then, hopefully, play an NFL game at the new stadium as well."
Back to NFL and your point of expertise - what is the ideal punt?
Tim: "It depends on where you are on the field. If you are midfield, say half-way, a punter will try to place the ball around the 10-yard line. You try to generate a ‘fair catch’ or punt past the returner so your guys can reach and down the ball, or go to the sidelines to make it difficult for the punt return to make any yardage. If you are backed-up further down the pitch, you are trying to change the field position or try to prevent the returner having much space. That’s the name of the game really, to hit the ball high enough so there is no space for the punt returner to get going. A 40-50-yard punt with good hang time and direction is a really good punt."
Finally, what is your typical week with the Packers?
Tim: "The whole team follows just about the same training protocol. We’ll come in on Monday, lift weights, run and have meetings. Tuesday is usually our day off. Wednesday we’re back on the field as a team and we practice Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays on the field punting and running through our offensive and defensive details, kicking, special teams. We also do weights on Friday and we’ll have massages and recovery on Friday. Saturday is a shorter, crisper practice to get ready for Sunday. We occasionally have Thursday night or Monday night matches but that routine pretty much stays the same throughout the week."