The first player up in our countdown to Penn State football’s 2017 season is none other than Big Toe himself, kicker Joey Julius.
Julius is a walk-on, a kicker sometimes unfairly disparaged in his freshman year before putting it together to have a monster sophomore season. He started thirteen games in the 2016 Big Ten Championship campaign before being sidelined with injury against USC in the Rose Bowl, and his presence was missed.
In addition to logging 45 touchbacks and a season-average of 62.1 yards per kickoff, Julius wasn’t afraid to mix it up with opposing kick returners:
I got hit by a nose tackle that can kick.— Jourdan Lewis (@JourdanJD) September 25, 2016
It got to be that opposing returners, and their teammates who blocked for them, were anticipating Julius’ big hits so much that they illegally targeted him themselves - as both Minnesota’s Jaylen Waters and Maryland’s Isaiah Davis were ejected for going after him on kickoffs when he wasn’t even a factor in the return team - and this was after Pitt’s Saleem Brightwell was penalized for a similar hit. Julius got in their heads, and in our hearts, with this type of play.
In addition to his on-field success in 2016, Julius became a public figure for speaking out about his battle with an eating disorder that has plagued him for years. Most recently, Julius revealed that he is back in treatment. We here at BSD wish him the best of luck, and send good thoughts and prayers to him—whether he returns to the field, and similar levels of 2016 success, or not. We’re rooting for him.