Tommy Townsend’s quick rise to team, media and league recognition

Tommy Townsend
Kansas City Chiefs captain and punter Tommy Townsend speaks to the media ahead of his second Super Bowl appearance.(Adam Bakr/MEDILL)

By Adam Bakr
Medill Reports

Four players on the Kansas City Chiefs have been voted as a team captain, an Associated Press All-Pro and Players All-Pro. Joining Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones is punter Tommy Townsend, who received these honors in just his third season. 

“It’s honestly hard to put into words,” Townsend said. “This is stuff that I’ve been working toward for my entire career. It was one of my goals for it to happen one day, but I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly.” 

The second team All-Pro led all punters with 45.6 net yards per punt and is tied for the second longest punt of the season at 76 yards. In the AFC championship game, his talent was on full display as he pinned the Cincinnati Bengals inside the 6-yard line on two occasions, the latter of which saw the Chiefs get the ball back for the game-winning field goal drive. 

“If anything, it just ups the standard for me,” Townsend said. “It’s something that, now that I’ve done it, I’ve got to come back every year and hold myself to a really high standard, which I do already, but now it’s even more amplified.”

This Super Bowl will be Townsend’s second in his three years, with his first coming in his rookie season. Like many of the Chiefs in the 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was not his finest hour. His three punts netted just 29 yards on average, before the Chiefs had to forgo punting with a heavy deficit in the second half. 

“It was definitely a lot for me my rookie year,” Townsend said. “I really didn’t know what to expect going into the game. It was different circumstances with the COVID year, not really getting to have the full Super Bowl experience for the week and just flying in the day before the game. I’ve been trying to just have fun with it this week, stay relaxed and take in the experience, but at the same time being focused on what I need to do to be successful throughout the game. That starts with a good week of practice and being confident in your preparation.” 

There’s plenty of talk about how no player has won the Most Valuable Player award and Super Bowl in the same season since 1999. A lesser discussed achievement, though, is that no punter who has made the All-Pro team has won the Super Bowl since Sean Landeta in 1986 with the New York Giants. With Mahomes winning this year’s MVP, a Chiefs Super Bowl would end both of these droughts. 

For Townsend to take the field, the league’s No. 1 offense has to be stopped. It’s a limited role on the field compared with to other punters, as 26 punters had more punts than his 53, but it doesn’t make the job easier for him. 

“I think there’s a massive misconception about my job and what I do with such a high-powered offense,” Townsend said. “I feel fresher in a game where I have more punts. If I have very few punts that means we’re going on these long drives.  That means it’s first down, second down, third down, repeat. Every third down I’m kicking a few balls into the net, so by the end of the game I’ve hit like 250 balls. In games when we punt a good amount of times, I’m not hitting as many into the net and I’m not on my feet as much.” 

That being said, with his next game being the Super Bowl, he’ll hardly mind if he’s only kicking into the net on the sideline. 

“I’ll be very happy not punting,” Townsend said. “Hopefully we get a lot of extra points and maybe a couple field goals. I’ll get a lot of work with my hands. If I have to punt, hopefully it’s the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left.”

Adam Bakr is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter here.