Football Matt McCarthy

Alive and Kicking

Punting and kicking is not the most highlighted skills in football. The two roles, however, are some of the most important facets a team uses throughout the course of a game and season. Without a good player in those positions, the team will miss out on field goals, extra points and field position. They are positions that most fans forget about until they step on the field. However, seniors Alex Starzyk and Austin Jones embrace that role.
"We glamorize each other if no one else is celebrating for us," Starzyk says. "We're out here making a fool of ourselves going crazy for each other. We definitely make the most of what we got."
"We're definitely each other's biggest fans," Jones added.
Starzyk and Jones never had to wait to make an impact for the Temple Owl's football team. Both came to Temple as freshmen and immediately won their own respective kicking battles to cement their roles on the team.
"It really helped us grow up a lot in the fact that we had each other's back at a very young age," Jones reflects. "That really helped us later on. It helped us grow up in our sophomore, junior, and senior years and it made us hold each other accountable."
Alex Starzyk was born in southern New York in Poughkeepsie and raised in Pleasant Valley. He punted for Arlington High School for coach Dominick DeMatteo where he would be a special teams standout. His accolades would begin in Arlington where his kicking and punting duties earned him all-league and all-section nominations. In addition, he was named Special Teams Player of the Year. He would also go on to participate in the New York North vs. South game.
After Arlington, he would play for East Coast Prep in Massachusetts for coach Dick Bel. He would be named, yet again, Special Teams Player of the Year. After East Coast Prep, he decided to become a freshman walk-on for the Temple football program. Adjusting to life in Philadelphia did not seem to phase him at all.
"I mean New York is always my home and my place to live," Starzyk said. "Coming to Philadelphia, it was awesome getting a new environment that I was going to be living in for four years. Once I got comfortable it really was my second home."
 He would be offered a spot on the team after winning a kicking battle and quickly made friends with fellow special teamers Austin Jones and long snapper Corey Lerch
"It really built a strong relationship between the specialists," Starzyk reflected. "Having three freshmen come in and win the starting jobs, we became brothers right away."
Since earning his position, he has been a regular in the Owls line-up. In 2015, he averaged 42.4 yards per punt on 63 punts. Of those 63, 19 landed inside the 20 yard line and 13 were for more than 50 yards. Over the span of his career, he has averaged a tad under 40-yards per punt with 39.9. In 2016, he was named to the Ray Guy Watch List for the nation's best punter. He has also racked up multiple Player of the Game awards, most notably against Notre Dame in the opening game of the 2017 season.
Austin Jones was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. He would be a four-year letter-winner for Boone High School under coach Andy Johnson. He would be utilized his entire high school career as a kickoff specialist. Prior to his senior season, he was named third team all-state for special teams. He would live up to his accolade as he would kick 80 percent of all kick offs for touchbacks. Because of his kickoffs, he was named third-team All-American for kickoffs.
Coming out of high school, he knew that Temple was the best opportunity and fit for him during the recruiting process.
"Philadelphia and Temple was my best opportunity coming out of high school," said Jones. "I fell in love with this place in recruiting. Plus my grandmother lives 30 minutes away in New Jersey."
From the start of his freshman year, Jones made an immediate impact on the team. He would lead the entire team in points scored with 69 hitting 13 field goals and adding 30 extra points. He would also earn American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week against UConn when he scored 10 points in the game. His sophomore year, he would pass former Temple kicker Don Bitterlich for most field goals made in a season with 23. That year he would post 113 total points. His junior season, he set a school record for most field goals made consecutively with 19. He would later suffer an ACL tear that would force him out for the rest of the year. Today, he sits fourth all-time in points scored for the Owls with 252. However, he does not allow the stats and awards to get to his head.
"I say it's more humbling with our stats and awards," Jones says. "We always cheer each other up and I always brag more about Starzyk. He will brag more about anyone else other than himself."
Starzyk and Jones are set to graduate this spring. Starzyk, who was named captain for this week's game at Army, will have the opportunity to play in his home state when the Owls visit West Point. His ultimate dream is to play in the NFL before using his double major degrees in criminal justice and psychology.
Jones will graduate with a degree in economics. After tearing his ACL last year, his recovery was not fully complete and soreness and pain settled into his hip. He has not appeared in a game since game 4 at USF and hopes to receive a medical redshirt to save another year of eligibility.
Over their four year service to the team, these two players have marked the best kicking stretch in school history. Not too bad for a couple of walk-ons.
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