Being brothers who are close in age, Johnny and Tommy Townsend share some similar traits.
But Gator Nation isn’t all that concerned about whether they laugh alike or walk alike or at times they even talk alike. What the fans really want to know is this: can Tommy punt like Johnny?
Tommy gets asked that question a lot. It’s inevitable.
“Yeah, absolutely. It is, I agree,” he said. “But I’m just going to try to do the best I can do and make a name for myself.”
If it turns out that Tommy can punt like Johnny, then he certainly will earn his own identity as a Florida punter. Johnny already has his. He’s considered one of the best, if not the best, punters in school history.
Now that Johnny has moved on to the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, Tommy, a redshirt junior, is viewed as the heir apparent to fill his brother’s cleats.
Whether he punts like his brother is yet to be determined. What we already do know is Tommy’s high school resume certainly looks a lot like his brother’s, if not even more impressive.
Coming out of Orlando Boone High School, Tommy was a U.S. Army All-American and rated the nation’s No. 1 punter by Kohl’s Kicking and Chris Sailor Kicking.
With Johnny heading into his sophomore year at UF at the time, Tommy decided to take a different college path and signed with one of UF’s arch-rivals, Tennessee.
But after redshirting his freshman season, Tommy decided to come home, transferring to Florida, where he was reunited with his brother.
After sitting out the 2016 season per NCAA transfer rules and then sitting and watching Townsend punt this past season, it’s time for the younger Townsend to possibly/likely take over as the Florida punter.
He’ll be trying to replace someone who averaged 47.5 yards a punt in 2017 and 46.6 for his four-year career.
It’s a daunting punting challenge — even for a Townsend.
“I’m not really thinking too much about his stats,” Tommy said of Johnny. “I’m just going out there and trying to do the best that I can do and go from there.
“I saw someone put a tweet out quoting (cornerback) Marco Wilson how he was his own guy, he’s his own player. I agree completely with that. I’m in the same shoes as him. People are looking at me to fill Johnny’s shoes and people are looking at Marco to fill his (Quincy’s) shoes. We’re both just trying to come out here and play the best we can play.”
Tommy was asked if it is intimidating.
“Not really,” he said. “There are always people asking me about it all the time. I’m just trying to go out there and kick the best that I can possibly kick.”
The good news for Tommy — and the Gators — is that he does appear to have the talent and potential to match his brother.
What he’s lacking right now is experience and consistency, which was evident in the spring. He’d boom one punt, then mishit another.
That’s not Johnny.
“I think we’re very similar punters,” Tommy said. “Johnny’s obviously shown a lot of consistency and that’s something I’m going to try to match. Because obviously the end goal is the NFL. I’d love to play in the NFL as long as I can.
“The only difference is I kick off, so, hopefully I’ll get the kickoff job this year. I’ve been working really hard this offseason so we’ll see how it goes.”
In his first two years at UF, Tommy had his older brother to lean on and learn from. It was a positive experience for both brothers, Tommy said.
“I think we both got a little bit better working with each other,” Tommy said. “It’s really helpful having similar eyes on each other at all times.”
The eyes on Townsend now are those of Gator Nation.
Can he punt like his brother?
Everyone wants to know. And everyone will start finding out soon enough.
Note: Four more members of Florida’s 2018 recruiting class are now on campus and officially part of the football program.
The four newest freshmen to arrive are offensive tackle Richard Gouraige, outside linebacker/defensive end Andrew Chatfield, linebacker/safety David Reese and offensive lineman Griffin McDowell. The four are enrolled in Summer A classes, which began Monday.
The four join eight early enrollees who started classes in January and went through spring practice.
The seven other members of the class will enroll in Summer B in June. They are wide receiver Jacob Copeland, tight end Kyle Pitts, defensive end Dante Lang, defensive end/outside linebacker Malik Langham, defensive back Justin Watkins, defensive back John Huggins and kicker Evan McPherson.