This story first appeared in the Cal Kickoff Gameday Program on Sept. 17, 2011
It's usually the quarterback who attracts the most attention on a football team.
But when the California football team holds its Women's Huddle event, the station that a lot of the women flock to is where Golden Bear senior standout punter Bryan Anger is sitting. According to his teammates, Anger does not shy away from all the attention at the Women's Huddle.
It is a good thing that he is not afraid to be in the limelight because Anger has spent many Saturdays wowing fans with his long, blasting punts, including his career-best 76-yarder in the 2008 Big Game. From his first game as a Bear, Anger has been impressing coaches, teammates and quickly became a fan favorite.
Among the numerous preseason honors bestowed onto Anger in 2011 are being named a third-team preseason All-American by Phil Steele and an honorable mention selection of GoDaddy.com. He is also one of five players named to the preseason watch list for the prestigious Ray Guy Award, which is awarded to the nation's top punter. The Ray Guy Award is an award that Anger has been chasing throughout his collegiate career. There's no question winning that award is near the top of his goals this year.
"I want that top spot," Anger said. "It's been within reach the past few years. I want to get my consistency down. That's the main focus, to be more consistent. That's been my struggle the past couple years. If I can get that down, I think I can get the top spot. "
For a player as successful and valuable as Anger has been to the Golden Bears, football was far from Anger's first love in sports when he was growing up. Not only does Anger love playing basketball, but when he was younger, he was hoping for a scholarship in baseball. In fact, the only reason he discovered he had a nice kick was from playing soccer. He did not start punting until his junior year of high school.
Even with all the pressure and the packed day-to-day schedule on his plate, Anger still finds time to sneak in a little basketball.
"I miss basketball," Anger said. "I love basketball. I'll sneak into the RSF whenever I can. The coaches don't really like it, but I try to get in there to get a little freedom away from football."
Anger happened to meet the right people who started him down the path that eventually led him to Cal. He hit his big break when he met with former UCLA punter Chris Sailor and former Cal punter Ignacio Brache. The two showed Anger the right techniques and training to be an effective trainer. In addition to receiving the tutelage from them, Anger has spent a few summers working with former Cal punter and current NFL punter Nick Harris. Anger said Harris was able to show him some tricks that even Sailor and Brache did not even know.
With all the notoriety surrounding Anger, the native of Camarillo, Calif., has not had any trouble with ignoring all the preseason predictions, having learned his lesson after taking everything to heart too much following his freshman campaign. Nevertheless, second-year special teams assistant coach Jeff Genyk helps keep Anger focused on his kicks, although he said he does not worry at all about Anger getting sucked into the hype.
"We do talk about the fact that it's about the next play, the next snap and not about all the accolades in the short term," Genyk said. "Those accolades are great to review in December or January when the season is over, but it really comes down to each particular snap and focusing on what's best to try to ensure that we have a great net punt and help our defense."
Anger's expertise has definitely trickled down to his teammates. Backup punter Jed Barnett has thrived under Anger, taking in as much knowledge as he can.
"I like to think he's the top punter in the country," Barnett said. "When you watch somebody like that hit balls consistently as he does, you're always hungry. I'm always trying to work harder and get to be where he is and continually grow. I'm always watching him, so I can work on my form and alter it as he does. "
Anger's collegiate career got off with a bang starting with the 2008 season opener against Michigan State. In fact, he said that game is his most memorable game at Cal thus far.
"When I came out as a freshman, I remember my first couple kicks against Michigan State," Anger said. "I hit a bomb 56 yards," Anger said. "Just watching it, it seemed like it too minutes for it to fall down. The first two punts were probably the most vivid memories I've had of any kicks."
Unfortunately, that night was bittersweet for Anger. He partially tore a medial-collateral ligament in his knee against the Spartans. Having to wear a brace for the next four games, Anger had to swing his leg across the ball instead of through it because he could not extend his leg.
Luckily it was just a minor setback, and soon enough Anger was back sending opposing returners on their heels once again.
Anger's ability to help the Bears secure good field position is one of the critical keys to winning any football game. It is something that makes Genyk relieved every time he sees Anger running out onto the field.
"It provides for a lot of certainty as it pertains to our special teams," Genyk said. "Knowing that you've got an athletic player that can make a play on a bad snap and can also make a tackle if a ball gets out the gate, all of those things combined along with his hang time and distance allows for the team to have a lot of confidence in him when he's called upon."
If an NFL career does not pan out for Anger. He has a career path to fall back on. An integrative biology major, Anger hopes to pursue a career in marine biology. He does not know exactly what he wants to do in the field, but he hopes it is something he will get into after a successful NFL career.
When asked what the most difficult aspect of being a punter is, Anger mentioned that every kick is a pressure situation. Being stuck in the back of the endzone is the most difficult punt for Anger, especially if it is late in the game and even a bigger pressure situation then.
One would think a difficult aspect for a punter would be running on the field during a home game to a chorus of boos because the offense failed to score or get a first down. On the contrary, it is actually something that Anger gets a kick out of.
"I love all the boos," Anger said. "The boos get me going. Our net is usually on the sideline when we warm up and it's right next to the away fans. They're always giving us a hard time. I love that stuff."
The goals for 2011 are simple for Anger. Besides the obvious team success, Anger wants to perfect and fine tune his technique and have a successful season, which he hopes will end with him winning the Ray Guy Award.
According to Genyk, it is going to be tough to find an area that Anger really needs to work on.
"When you're first-team All-Pac-10 year after year, that's pretty good, but he really wants to work on improving his hang time and improving his punts as they pertain to coverage," Genyk said. "Anytime there's a fair catch, that's something you really want to celebrate because we didn't allow our opponent to return the ball. He's really bought into that."