Von Rosenberg’s punting aging like a fine wine

PHOTO by Chris Parent, courtesy of LSU sports information

The options of LSU punter Zach Von Rosenberg returning for a sixth season of eligibility in 2021 have sent his friends into overdrive.

The good-natured barbs don’t seem to end for LSU’s oldest player who turned 30 last month, making him the nation’s second oldest player.

“I could be tenured here shortly,” Von Rosenberg quipped.

With the NCAA offering an additional year of eligibility, Von Rosenberg could further cement a memorable journey since retiring in 2014 from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization after six years as a pitcher.

That disappointment of one sport opened the door to LSU.

After originally committing to play baseball after a standout career at Zachary High, Von Rosenberg has put together one of the best punting careers in school history. He can either return for one more year, pursue punting in the NFL or put his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies to use in the business world.

“I’ve gotten texts after games from friends,” said Von Rosenberg, who also holds on extra points and field goals for placekicker Cade York. “They’re saying, if they had an opportunity to play at 31 years old next year, what was I thinking about. The business world can wait. You can work 30 years at a job, you can’t play six years of college football again.”

In true Von Rosenberg fashion, he countered with his own self-deprecating rebuttal that would further mean to his legacy at LSU to play as a 31-year-old.

“There won’t be another player at LSU older than me,” he said.

That same circle of people, who’ve poked fun at Von Rosenberg as ‘old man’ and ‘grandpa’ have had to marvel at his ability to raise his game to another level. He’s enjoying the best season of career despite LSU’s slower-than-expected 1-2 record heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. SEC home game with South Carolina (2-2).

Von Rosenberg, 6-5 and 245 pounds, certainly hasn’t displayed any signs of slowing down, with a career-best 46.2-yard average ranking him seventh in the SEC. He boomed a season-long 60-yarder nearly two weeks ago in a 45-41 loss at Missouri but has also deftly had 11 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

“(LSU special teams coach Greg McMahon) Coach Mac emphasized more sideline punts last year,” Von Rosenberg said. “To get more accuracy I substituted my power and he noticed that in 2018 to 2019 the distance and hang time. In 2018, I would just crush it. … Let ’er rip. This year he altered the location which freed up my ability to lay into it.”

Von Rosenberg said he’s excelled under McMahon’s strategy to find landmarks in the field other than the sideline, contributing to this year’s success which is nearly a yard better than his previous best of 45.7 in 2018 when he was selected second team All-SEC.

“I don’t have the fear of it leaking toward the middle field because he said if I hit a 42-yard, 4.8 (hang time) punt, the likelihood of them returning that punt with Racey McMath at gunner is almost impossible because the dude’s a freak,” Von Rosenberg said of McMahon’s philosophical approach this year. “I hit some good punts last year and put them on the sideline. Knowing that I have a little more leeway has allowed me to get more hang time and I’ve gotten more fair catches.”

Von Rosenberg’s improved hang time this season – 4.15 seconds– has helped lead to eight fair catches and a net punting average of 45.8 yards.

By comparison in his previous two seasons Von Rosenberg had average hang times of 4.02 (in 2018) and 4.08 seconds with net punting averages of 40.97 and 39.06 yards, respectively.

He concluded the national championship season with three punts inside of Clemson’s 20-yard line where LSU surged to a 42-25 victory.

In his team’s season-opening loss to Mississippi State, Von Rosenberg matched a career high with seven punts for a 49.4 average. He had three punts travel 50 yards or more with a long of 58 yards and dropped five of them inside the 20.

“It’s been a dream,” Von Rosenberg said. “When I got here, I played multiple positions. I gained 40 pounds (to play tight end) and I’m still here. It’s kind of bizarre. I know I need to get my life in order and right now I’m living the dream here at LSU and I have been for a long time.”

Should this mark his final season at LSU, Von Rosenberg will be considered among the school’s best for more than just his engaging personality and quick wit.

His career average of 44.2 yards ranks fourth best in program history and his 6,504 punting yards is the school’s sixth highest total.

Moreover, he’s had 64 punts result in fair catches, 61 that have been downed inside the 20-yard line, 33 that have traveled for 50-plus yards and more importantly – none of his 149 punts have ever been blocked.

“I still have a decision I have to make,” said Von Rosenberg, a three-time member of the All-SEC Honor Roll. “I’ve been here five years, what’s another year, right? How many guys get to say they won a national championship. I’ve been a Tiger since I was a kid, so that’s a dream come true for me.”

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