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Loper punter voted team captain after breakout season

Hunter Kraus’ 69-yard punt last year was a career-high. File photo

UNK’s Hunter Kraus came to the team as a walk-on. It was his only offer out of Twin Loup High School. 

This year, the punter was voted a team captain.

“It means the world to me,” Kraus said. “Coming out of such a small school, I never looked to be something like this. Just talking to my family and my mom cried when I told her. It means a lot to me to have these guys look up to me because I look up to them. They’re my brothers and I would do anything for them.”

Kraus emerged on the scene last year averaging 40 yards per punt while landing 13 inside the 20-yard line. He was a second-team All-MIAA selection. He also made the MIAA Academic Honor Roll and was an MIAA Scholar Athlete. 

“He’s really developed himself into an All-MIAA punter with his work ethic,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “He’s a great teammate. Whatever the team needs, he does it. He pays attention to detail. No stone is left unturned with Hunter. He leads by example.”

Kraus was looking to become an athletic trainer when he graduated high school. UNK’s new athletic training master’s program established during his freshman year was the perfect fit.

“It was the first year of them having (the program),” Kraus said. “Coming in as a freshman, that’s what I wanted to go into. Things kind of clicked and came together like that.”

After Grant Buschkoetter graduated last year, the Lopers were in search of a new holder. Kraus has stepped up to fill that role this season.

“I love the opportunity to be with our kickers and snappers even more like that,” Kraus said. “It’s definitely another skill. Each kicker has a little different angle into how the ball is precisely held.”

Kraus did a lot of work in the offseason going to camps to practice the little things that it takes to improve his game. He’s also been working with Kyle Larson, who punted for Kearney High, the Huskers and in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s just incredible to get the opportunity to get to work with him,” Kraus said. “He knows so much about the art of punting.”

Larson played in every game during his five NFL seasons and even scored a touchdown against the New England Patriots in 2004.

The coaches have taken notice of Kraus’ improvement as well after going to many camps and working with Larson this offseason.

“I think his consistency has improved the most,” Lynn said. “He’s always had a good ability to punt the ball. I think just his overall technique and his ability to be consistent with it has really made him great.”

Punting is a skill where oftentimes the smallest things can make the difference.

“It’s very mental and you have to keep a clear mind the whole time,” Kraus said. “When the punter is going out on the field it’s usually because the quarterback got sacked and the offense isn’t doing very well. You just need to go out there and do your job. It’s no different than practice, do the same thing every time and try to focus on that aspect of it.”

“I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Kraus said. “I try to do my best in every aspect of life that I get put in. I feel like that’s what God wants me to do and that’s how I try to live my life.”

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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