Special teams is perhaps the most underrated part of football. Fans, coaches and players alike seem to sometimes forget that special teams is a crucial part of the game.
For the Knights, there is a special level of acknowledgment for special teams. The "Hammer Down Award" is a prestigious team award given to those who perform exceptionally well on special teams. The winner is determined by a point system, and various points are assessed to each player for the plays he makes throughout the game.
Punt returner J.J. Worton and long snapper Scott Teal were both past recipients of the team award. Both have been carriers of the sledgehammer that is passed down to each new recipient of the award. This week, Cedric Thompson was awarded with the hammer. Why a sledgehammer, though?
"Because when you come down the field, it's hammer time, man. You gotta hammer down," Worton said.
Teal thinks being awarded the sledgehammer speaks to how hard the player worked.
"[The] sledgehammer really symbolizes [that] not only did you put in the work hours during the week, and that you're kind of a blue-collar player, but also that you bring the hammer whenever you make a big hit," Teal said.
The Hammer Down Award — and the hammer itself — may seem like a funny concept to some, but the players are honored to get the recognition.
"When we go over the points system on Mondays after the games, everyone's wondering who's got the most points and who had the most points for each play" Worton said. " It's an honor when you get up there, you get your name called; everyone acknowledges you and you get the hammer."
Worton said his goal is to always get 10 yards on each return. His performance against BYU not only earned him the hammer, but also American Athletic Conference special-teams honors, as he notched 77 yards on five punt returns. He said the hammer is not an easy award to get, having earned it only one time himself.
The unit also agreed that the award does bring out a little competitiveness among the teammates, but all in good fun.
"It's a friendly competition," linebacker Micheal Easton said. "[Sometimes all it takes is] you telling someone else that, 'I bet I get the hammer this week.'"
If it doesn't do anything else, the hammer motivates the group to buckle down and put on its best performance.
"It's not guaranteed that [the same] someone gets it every [single] week," Teal said. "It's definitely an honor whenever you do get the award, because it doesn't happen too often in your career."