Six games into his Missouri football career, the Legend of Corey Fatony is flourishing.
Fatony, a freshman punter for the Tigers, earned the Ray Guy national player of the week, a first in program history, after averaging 47.8 yards on nine punts last Saturday against Florida.
He’s quickly attaining the same stature that NFL veteran punter and fellow Tennessee native Dustin Colquitt is afforded with the Chiefs as something of cult hero.
Just ask senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers about Fatony: “What? That boy is amazing. He’s a freshman, too. That’s crazy. I never have to worry about bad field position when he’s punting the ball. That’s something that’s been really good for us.”
Fatony is the first scholarship specialist Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has brought in as a true freshman since kicker Matt Casaday in 2005.
“When I was at Washington, we had a lot of great kickers and punters,” Pinkel said. “We never put a guy on scholarship ever. You had to come in and earn it.”
Fatony credits kicking coach James Wilhoit and 12-year NFL veteran Jim Arnold, who punted for the Chiefs from 1983 to 1985, for teaching him the fundamentals of punting (and kicking). Both live in the Franklin, Tenn., area where Fatony attended high school.
“The biggest difference now is the development of these kickers and punters,” Pinkel said. “It’s just like quarterbacks and receivers and skill players. They’re in camps all over the place, so people get to see them.”
The one knock on Fatony as fall camp started was the speed he got off his punts, but he quickly adjusted.
“I kind of pretended my butt was on fire,” he said.
It worked, and he won the starting job.
Fatony bombed three punts of longer than 50 yards against the Gators. Amazingly, that’s not even his career high, given the four 50-plus boots he had in the season’s second game at Arkansas State.
Only seven of Fatony’s 38 punts have been returned this season for a measly 28 yards, and he has dropped 15 inside the 20-yard line.
Fatony was born without his left pectoralis major muscle, but he insists never really affected him athletically.
“My lats and my shoulder muscle fill in for it and are kind of overworked,” he said. “It really doesn’t affect me other than benching probably.”
It certainly hasn’t hurt his physique.
“When he first got here, I thought he was a running back,” Brothers said. “He’s a pretty jacked little kid. He’s short, stocky. I didn’t know he was a punter, but he can kick the mess out of that ball.”
Fatony has had tough moments, too. He dropped the snap on his first punt against Connecticut and allowed it to throw him off for the game.
“It shouldn’t have, but it did a little bit,” he said. “I got my freshman game out of the way. ... I just kind of lost my focus for a minute.”
But the good moments have far outweighed the bad for Fatony, who also handles kickoff duties and has booted 14 of 26 for touchbacks this season.
Fatony ranks sixth in the SEC with a 43.7-yard average this season and second among all Football Bowl Subdivision freshmen. Only Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert is better with 43.8 yards per punt.
“There’s a reason why he’s the first scholarship guy in however many years,” said senior kicker Andrew Baggett, who took Fatony under his wing during recruiting visits and when he arrived on campus in June. “He’s an incredible punter and very capable. Having the poise and stuff he does at this point, it’s very impressive for him to do that.”