Some of the kudos aimed at San Diego State’s Matt Araiza this season make him proud. Others make him laugh.
But in regards to the big picture, the Rancho Bernardo High School alum sees himself perhaps altering the perception of football specialists like him.
He might be doing it already, as ESPN labeled him “a computer science major (making) punting cool.”
“Being a part of maybe pushing that narrative that kickers and punters can be as important as anyone else on the team, that’s huge to me,” he said. “That’s a big goal.”
Cool or not, Araiza has set records, generated buzz and garnered mid-season honors left and right while helping the Aztecs to their 9-1 start, ahead of Friday’s 8:30 p.m. matchup with UNLV (2-8; 2-4 Mountain West).
Last week, he was named one of 10 semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award, given to the sport’s best punters. He’s also part of four midseason All-America teams, including three first teams – Associated Press, ESPN and the Sporting News.
As far as his game-to-game performance, he’s been named MW Special Teams Player of the Week four times, including this week.
“There’s so much that Matt gives you,” Brady Hoke said last month.
For instance, in SDSU’s 23-21 win over Nevada Saturday, Araiza excelled in all three facets of the kicking game. He averaged 55.6 yards per punt, the highest in the nation for the week, with the longest going for 62 yards.
The junior also tied a career high with three field goals. That included his first career game-winner, from 35 yards, with 1:21 left in the 4th quarter.
“We knew that we had to get the ball in the field-goal range for Matt. He’s a huge weapon for our team, so we knew we just had to get it to the 40 and it would be good,” quarterback Lucas Johnson said.
His lone field-goal miss came from 55 yards. He also kicked off six times for a perfect 65-yard average and four touchbacks.
(Cameron Thomas garnered the MW defensive honor for the week).
For the season, Araiza leads the FBS in punt average at 52.3 yards. He has 34 punts that have traveled at least 50 yards. His long, 86 yards, leads the nation in 2021.
His punt average so far this year is tops in FBS history, besting Texas A&M’s Braden Mann’s 50.98 in 2018. Araiza already has set FBS records in 60-yard punts (17) and 50-yard punts (34) in a season.
Last month after the Aztecs’ win over Air Force, Hoke told NBC San Diego, “right now, he’s (SDSU’s) MVP.” Araiza called it “a huge honor to hear that from him.”
Not surprisingly, he’s eyeing NFL opportunities, in whatever capacity he might be wanted.
“I would say most likely it would be punter,” he said.