SDSU Mountain West NCAA
Aztec Matt Araiza at the Zoom news conference following the Ray Guy Award announcement Thursday. Photo credit: @goaztecscom via YouTube

San Diego State’s Matt Araiza on Thursday won the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter in college football.

Araiza is the first Aztec in the program’s history to win a major postseason award. He beat out fellow finalists Adam Korsak of Rutgers and Jordan Stout of Penn State.

The junior, who was recently honored with the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year award, appeared on ESPN’s broadcast of the national College Football Awards for the announcement of his win.

In the interview, he attributed his success this season to “great teammates that make it really easy.”

The award, named for college and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Guy, is selected by a voting body of Football Bowl Subdivision sports information directors, national media and former winners.

On the season, Araiza, after punting 76 times for 3,904 yards, ranks first in FBS history in punt average, 51.4 yards, 60-yard punts, with 18, and 50-yard punts, with 39.

He’s also one of four players in the nation handling all three kicking duties, punts, PATs/field goals and kickoffs. Araiza added 17 field goals, including three of more than 50 yards.

Araiza has six punts of at least 70 yards, far outpacing other kickers, with five tied for second with two each. He logged the longest punt of the year at 86 yards.

It was an improbable leap, moving from receiving honorable mentions on all-MW teams to being part of the national conversation in college football. Araiza, who aims to be an elite punter or kicker, told reporters after his ESPN appearance that he felt “that dream slipping away,” which drove him to tighten his focus in the off-season.

“The kind of dedication that I gave this off-season is the exact reason why that kind of huge turnaround has happened,” he said.

In addition, Araiza, a Rancho Bernardo High alum, along with Cameron Thomas, out of Carlsbad High, were each selected for first-team All-America honors this week.

Both were named Walter Camp All-America selections, the Walter Camp Foundation announced Thursday. A punter, Araiza was named to the first team, while defensive lineman Thomas made the second team.

The Walter Camp team, the nation’s oldest college football All-America team, started in 1889. This is the first time the Aztecs have had multiple selections.

Araiza also was named a first-team All-American by ESPN, CBS Sports, The Athletic (paywall) and Bleacher Report.

Thomas, meanwhile, a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award – Georgia’s Jordan Davis won –and the MW Defensive Player of the Year, landed on The Athletic first team.

The junior totaled 68 tackles, while leading the team in tackles for loss, 20.5, sacks, 11.5, and quarterback hurries, 21. The 11.5 sacks this year by Thomas are the sixth most in SDSU single-season history.

Among national leaders, he is third in tackles for loss, fourth in tackles for loss per game, 1.58, and tied for sixth in sacks.
San Diego State (11-2), plays No. 24 UTSA (12-1) in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl on Dec. 21 in Frisco, Tex.

Updated 7:45 p.m. Dec. 9, 2021