ATLANTA — Texas A&M junior Braden Mann has won the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the nation’s top punter. The record-setting Mann received the honor during Thursday night’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.
“My heart was racing so fast, I really didn’t have time to think that much [about winning],” Mann said. “Right when [Guy] said my name, it was such a relief and I walked up and it was awesome.”
Mann is the first Aggie to win the award, which has been given annually since 2000. Mann is averaging 51.15 yards per punt this year to lead the nation and is on pace to break the NCAA record of 50.28 set by LSU’s Chad Kessler in 1997. Mann already has broken a pair of NCAA records this season. He averaged 60.8 yards on five punts against Alabama on Sept. 1 to set the gross average for a single game, and he has 14 punts of at least 60 yards.
“This is a huge honor and an absolute blessing for me,” Mann said. “I have great teammates, great coaches and a great family behind me. God has blessed me to be able to have a season like this, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that without my teammates, coaches, family and the 12th Man behind me.”
Mann, who punted only twice in his first two seasons at A&M, thought a breakout moment came in the second game of the season against second-ranked Clemson. Mann averaged 55 yards on five punts against the Tigers, including back-to-back punts totaling 162 yards.
Former NFL punter Pat McAfee tweeted that Mann’s 82-yard punt during that sequence was “AN ABSOLUTE PISS MISSLE.”
“That was pretty funny,” Mann said. “I got quite a few followers off that.”
Mann’s favorite punt wasn’t one of the boomers but a 40-yarder against Alabama-Birmingham that hit at the Blazers’ 1-yard line and spun back to pin UAB at its 5.
Mann and the other finalists — Cincinnati’s James Smith and Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky, the 2016 winner — had dinner last night and breakfast Thursday with Guy.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Mann said. “It’s a lifelong dream to be mentioned with all the guys who have every won this award or been nominated, so it’s a blessing.”
Mann is the third player from a Texas school to win the honor. Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda won in 2004 and ’06. Texas’ Michael Dickson won last year.
“I’m happy to finally bring the Ray Guy Trophy back to College Station for the first time after following in the footsteps of great punters before me like Shane Lechler, Drew Kaser and Shane Tripucka,” Mann said. “It has been an honor to be in the conversation with punters like them and so many others. I really want to thank the 12th Man for giving me a lot of juice in games this season.”
NOTES — Mann and A&M junior tight end Jace Sternberger were first-team selections on the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America Team, which also was announced on the College Football Awards Show. The Walter Camp Foundation’s All-America Team is one of five recognized by the NCAA along with the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America and Sporting News. A player has to make three of the teams to be considered a consensus All-American.