“It’s been a process,” Potter said, laughing, during Friday’s media day at Western Michigan University. “My first year, from my stats, you can tell I was a little bit nervous. Every year, it’s been getting a little bit better, getting a little bit more confident, and I’m ready for my final year.”
After a phenomenal prep career at Grand Haven, Potter earned the starting place kicking job at WMU his freshman season and led the team in scoring with 74 points. Over his first two seasons, he missed 10 of his 31 field goal tries and also misfired on four point-after tries. He managed only six touchbacks as a freshman on 66 kickoffs. That number jumped to 15 as a sophomore.
Then came his junior year, and Potter established himself as one of the conference’s top kickers. He drilled 20 kickoffs for touchbacks while showing vastly improved accuracy on his kicks, making 10-of-12 field goals and splitting the uprights on all 50 of his point-after tries.
“That definitely helps my confidence coming into the season,” Potter said. “I’ve been kicking really well. Plus it feels good having a good relationship with my snapper and holder coming into my final season.”
The Broncos open their season at Michigan on Sept. 3. Playing in front of big crowds is nothing new for Potter — his first college game was played at Nebraska.
Perhaps Potter’s greatest asset is his versatility on the football field. He’s not the kick of kicker who disappears between kicks. In addition to holding the school record with 72 consecutive PAT’s made dating back to his sophomore season, the 6-foot-2, 209-pounder is also the school’s record-holder for tackles by a kicker with 28.
Against Ball State last year, he made two tackles, recovered a fumble and ran in an 8-yard touchdown.
That kind of effort has Potter’s coach singing his praises.
“John’s the best kicker in our league, and probably one of the best kids in the country,” said Broncos’ head coach Bill Cubit. “His touchbacks help us out on defense, and he’s a great athlete. Some people get concerned that he’s going down, making tackles, but he’s such a great athlete, he’s an extra guy in that phase of the game. He really understands the game, and people respect that.”
Cubit remembers watching a tape of Potter in high school. As a senior for the Buccaneers, he made an interception, scored a touchdown and converted the point-after try, then boomed the ensuing kickoff through the uprights.
“I thought I was watching a highlight tape, then I realized it was consecutive plays,” Cubit said. “He’s a great player, a great kick to be around. Some kickers ostracize themselves. He’s not like that. He likes to get involved.”
Grand Haven head football coach Mike Farley said it best during Potter’s senior season.
“He’s a special player,” said Buccaneer coach Mike Farley. “He’s not just a kicker, he’s a football player.”
Potter said it was a tough transition going from a position player in high school to strictly kicking in college.
“Just kicking is hard,” he said. “I was used to going out there and playing, and when a kick comes up, you aren’t thinking about it. Here, you’re thinking about kicking, just kicking.”
If his senior year is as productive as his junior campaign, Potter has a very good chance at earning a shot with an NFL team following his college career.
“I would love that, and I’m going to do everything I can by having a good season,” Potter said. “I’m focusing on this year first, helping my team win and doing the best I can.”