Hello there, member of a Big Ten kick return unit.
By now, you may have heard of Penn State kickoff specialist Joey Julius. Usually, a player who comes in a few times a game for kickoffs doesn't draw much attention, but Julius is different.
Carrying the weight of a defensive lineman, Julius immediately pops off the screen for being about 100-plus pounds larger than the standard converted soccer player who usually fills his role. He also likes to throw that weight around, making vicious hits that have turned him into a social media media sensation after clobbering unsuspecting returners from Michigan and Kent State. Not content with the traditional role of being the last-gasp safety valve, praying to not be the last line of defense against a momentum-shifting kickoff return touchdown, Julius races down the field in the hopes of making a play and inflicting some pain. It’s quite obvious the dude loves contact.
This has not only brought him some unanticipated fame, it has also made him a target in recent weeks for opposing teams. In consecutive games, Julius has been leveled on kickoffs well after the whistle. While this may have been an attempt to blow off some steam, or perhaps to put a kicker “in his place,” the late hits didn’t quite have the impact they were hoping for.
In fact, all it accomplished was losing 15 yards for the opposing team, as well as an early exit from the game for the opposing player foolish enough to make such a hit. But, that’s not all - It also pissed off Julius’ 100-plus teammates who used it to their advantage by snatching the momentum to create turning points in both contests. It also added life to the Beaver Stadium crowds, making them even more raucous and determined that any attempts for your offense to hear the snap count would be completely futile.
Heck, you can even make the argument that Minnesota would have left Happy Valley with a victory without the unnecessary antics. After a long touchdown awakened the crowd, the team seemed to play with an extra bit of tenacity and focus needed to eek out an overtime win against the Gophers following the late hit on Julius.
In Maryland’s case, it led to a nationally televised meltdown in the Beaver Stadium tunnel and the second black eye for the Terps’ program in as many trips to State College since joining the Big Ten.
You may not like the thought of a kicker trying to inflict pain on one of your teammates, especially one that you are responsible for opening up lanes, but a cheap shot isn’t going to do anything for your cause. Julius can obviously take a blow, and he will just get right back up and do his job (and do it well) while you and your teammates face the consequences.
If you can level him between the whistles, by all means go for it (that is your job, after all), but dirty play won’t accomplish anything positive on your end. By now, just know every player in a blue and white uniform has Julius’ back. If that’s not enough, so do the 100,000 Nittany Lion faithful staring down at you. It’s just how we roll.