On May 19, longtime Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch announced his retirement after 16 seasons in the NFL. He broke the news via tweet and went on to hold an emotional 40-minute press conference with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta at his side.
Shortly after the news came down, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Koch and his long, distinguished career. His message — which read: “Sam Koch…much respect!” — is especially notable because Tomlin uses Twitter infrequently (only eight times thus far in 2022) and his NFL-related tweets are few and far between.
‘Sam Koch Changed Punting’: John Harbaugh
During the press conference, Harbaugh shed light about why Tomlin — and much of the rest of the NFL — has so much respect for Koch. Beyond his remarkable consistency as a punter and holder, he was successful passing on fake punt attempts.
“Sam Koch changed punting,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of people don’t know it, but all the punters know it and all the punting coaches know it and all the people that study the game know it. When Sam got started all anybody ever did was punt it straight. You might punt it straight middle, straight right or straight left and you hoped to turn the ball over, right?
“Sam changed all that and started developing all these different rugby-style punts. The Koch hook is probably the most famous one, right? — that’s the one that’s got the nickname — but it’s not the only one.”
Koch, 39, finished his career as the Ravens’ all-time leader in games played (256) and a career average of 45.3 yards per punt. He also was 7-of-8 passing for 82 yards. He will join Harbaugh’s staff as a special teams consultant.
“When you change something forever, to me that’s kind of a revolutionary type thing and that’s the mark of greatness right there,” Harbaugh said. He noted that the punter the Ravens drafted to replace Koch — 2022 fourth-round pick Jordan Stout — uses the so-called Koch hook, as do other punters around the league.
Steelers and Ravens Fans React to Tomlin’s Tweet
Tomlin’s tweet elicited replies from Steelers and Ravens fans alike, many of whom credited Tomlin for what observers regarded as a classy, respectful move.
Still other fans were surprised to learn that Tomlin is on Twitter.
One Steelers fan took the opportunity to quip: “Ok Tucker, your (sic) next,” no doubt wishing that Justin Tucker — Baltimore’s 32-year-old All-Pro placekicker — would retire sooner rather than later.
Naturally, a few Ravens fans referenced Thanksgiving Night 2013, when Tomlin stepped onto the field during a Jacoby Jones kickoff return, an act for which the Steelers head coach was fined $100,000 by the league.
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Jordan Stout Was Part of Ravens-Steelers Draft Day Intrigue
Baltimore’s decision to draft punter Jordan Stout at No. 130 overall allowed the Steelers to select Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III eight picks later — a player the Ravens were hoping to grab with pick No. 139.
As it turns out, though, the Ravens were probably right to exhibit a sense of urgency concerning Stout. After the draft, longtime reporter Peter King revealed that another team hoped to make a trade with the Ravens for the No. 139 overall pick but abandoned the idea as soon as Baltimore took Stout, who is the highest-drafted punter since Bryan Anger was selected No. 70 overall in 2012 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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