With free agency in full swing, new Bills players are stepping foot on One Bills Drive as they ink pen to paper. Even though it's the offseason and the building isn't bustling, players are still getting a chance to see why Buffalo's culture is now well-known amongst the NFL. Punter Matt Haack experienced this on his first day in his new city.
"Just from the moment that I signed and the moment I got here, everyone's been super welcoming," Haack said. "I can tell that they preach the family environment, and I've seen it. I believe it all."
Haack said before arriving in Buffalo he had been welcomed to the team by kicker Tyler Bass and long snapper Reid Ferguson. The punter has also known offensive lineman Ike Boettger since high school because the two played in an All-Star game together.
From talking to a few players and meeting Bills head coach Sean McDermott and special teams coordinator Heath Farwell in-person, Haack is getting a sense of how vital special teams are to the Bills.
"It means a lot because obviously that part of the game is important to me, but it's important to the team," Haack said. "And for a team to win, ultimately win a Super Bowl, you need all three phases working together. A team that preaches that is going to set themselves up for more success in the long run."
The four-year NFL punter found punting in an unconventional way. In high school Haack played at wide receiver, but also served as the team's roll-out punter. This meant a fake punt or a pooch down the field. It wasn't until Haack attended a punting camp that he realized he had a gift.
"Before my senior high school I went to a punting camp at Iowa State through Jamie Kohl and Cole's kicking to learn how to normal punt in case I ever had to do that," Haack explained. "I ended up winning the camp."
Going to that camp and being around punting and kicking guru Jamie Kohl helped Haack earn a scholarship to punt at Arizona State. The lefty punter thinks he has several strengths that set him apart from other NFL punters. For one, he has a knack for pinning the ball inside the 20. Haack has done so 114 times in his four-year career and holds the single-season record for the Miami Dolphins doing it 34 times in 2018.
"In the past I've had success with pinning teams inside the 20 or inside the 10, which is a big deal for the defense and field position," Haack said. "Also just growing up playing different sports, playing different positions stuff, I can do more with football than just punt if need be. Obviously my job is to punt the football. But if I have to make a throw, I can make a throw. If I have to run, I can run. It's just being able to be versatile and coachable."
With free agency open for the 2021 season, scroll through to keep track of Buffalo's newest signings. Presented by Imagine Staffing.
The punter has been involved in a couple trick plays due to his versatility. Haack completed a one-yard touchdown pass to kicker Jason Sanders against the Eagles in 2019. The play was called "Mountaineer Shot" and won the 2019 NFL Bridgestone Clutch Performance of the Year.
He's looking forward to being a part of more trick plays, if the opportunity arises.
"You have a chance to kind of put the opponent on their heels and make them prepare for more than just scheming up your punt game," Haack said. "It definitely has an advantage. It's exciting especially when those plays work because you don't see it very often."
Haack thinks punting in a windy stadium can also be an advantage. He admits he's excited for the new challenge of getting used to a stadium with swirling winds that can throw off any punter or kicker.
"It's not the first time I've ever punted in wind or anything, so I'm excited for it," Haack explained. "I think being able to practice in it will give our team home field advantage and just learning different tricks and different tips on what to do with certain weather here will help."
For now, he's planning on linking up with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie in Florida to get a head start on preseason prep.