All-American punter Tory Taylor will return to Iowa for senior year

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

NASHVILLE − Tory Taylor has been called the most valuable player on Iowa’s football roster at times. Without a doubt, he certainly is the program’s “MVP” – most valuable punter – since Reggie Roby in the early 1980s.

Taylor was already a popular Hawkeye with his punting exploits. And now, he’ll be even more beloved by his fans. Taylor has decided to return for his senior year and put off NFL dreams for another year.

"Even though the time was probably right to leave, I will be coming back next year," Taylor said Saturday after Iowa's 21-0 win against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. "Just really looking forward to it. It's going to be a special year."

Tory Taylor set Iowa's record for punt yardage in a season in 2021, with 80 punts going for 3,688 yards (46.1 average).

Already 25 years old, Taylor gave serious thought to making the jump to a professional career. He said Saturday that he was "85/15" or "80/20" a month ago that he would probably go to the NFL. But he was excited by incoming quarterback Cade McNamara and the chance to be a part of a successful Hawkeye team for one more year.

The affable Australian also has learned that there are maybe one to three open punting slots a year at the NFL level. Even with someone of his pedigree, there’s no guarantee that he would be on an NFL gameday roster nine months from now.

"I really think this team can go far, and I want to be a part of it," Taylor said. "There's a couple things I want to tweak with my game. ... From a specialists point of view, there's not going to be anyone better than myself, (long snapper) Luke (Elkin) and (kicker) Drew (Stevens). So I'm really looking forward to that."

Taylor is already one of the most accomplished punters in Iowa history. Roby is in his own class as a consensus All-American in 1981 after averaging a whopping 49.8 yards per punt for the Hawkeyes’ Rose Bowl team. But Taylor isn’t far behind. His career average over three years at Iowa was 45.3 yards entering the Music City Bowl on 194 punts. (Roby’s career average was 45.6.) Taylor was named a first-team All-American this year by the Football Writers Association of America, thanks to not only his depth but precision in downing kicks deep inside opponents’ territory.

Taylor broke his own Iowa record for single-season punt yardage on Saturday (3,725 in 2022 after 3,688 in 2021) and now is almost assured of breaking Jason Baker’s career record (11,304 yards). After pounding eight punts for a 48.2-yard average against Kentucky, Taylor now has 9,178 yards on 202 punts.

His return fills what would have otherwise been an enormous roster hole. The Hawkeyes rely on Taylor to win close games, and now they can go into the offseason knowing they can have an All-American difference-maker at punter going into 2023.