Republican: Violette Puts Best Foot Forward - UMass Athletics

Republican: Violette Puts Best Foot Forward

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In the Springfield Republican, Ron Chimelis has a nice feature story on punter/kicker Caleb Violette. The Blacksburg, Virginia native took an interesting route to Amherst, find out what familiar faces helped him become more comfortable at UMass.

AMHERST - Caleb Violette prefers not to talk much about his freshman year at Virginia Tech, a lost football season for him.

He will talk about it a little, though.

"It didn't work out. That's the best way I could put it,'' said Violette, who begins his second season as the University of Massachusetts punter, and takes over the placekicking as well.

"I have handwritten letters from the coaches. I was a 'preferred walk-on,' '' the sophomore said, lingering on the subject a moment longer.

When Violette saw Virginia Tech's situation in 2008 was not what he'd expected, he attended the school as a freshman, but did not play football.

Then, he left. It was a break for UMass. 

The unlikely venue of Hokies country - Blacksburg, Va. - has sent the Minutemen an elite linebacker in Tyler Holmes, and a kicker in Violette.

"It's definitely not a natural fit. Tyler being here, that helped,'' Violette said with a smile.

Another familiar face was UMass assistant coach Brian Crist, who has lived and coached in Blacksburg, with a coaching stint at Virginia Tech in the 1990s.

"Caleb and I went to middle school and high school together in Blacksburg,'' said Holmes, a junior.

"That was big, I think. Coach Crist, Caleb and me ... it's a good mix.

"It's always good to have somebody you know. I told him that in a lot of ways, this way reminded me of home.''

Not in every way, though.

"People here don't all realize how big Virginia is. In Massachusetts, everything is two hours away,'' Violette said.

Last year, Violette went "home'' when UMass played at Richmond.

The distance from Blacksburg was 163 miles, 30 miles farther than a drive from Amherst to the New Meadowlands Stadium.

The real deal-maker was education.

"I'm a turf management major. I didn't feel like redoing a bunch of classes,'' Violette said.

"That was a big factor.''

So was the UMass kicking situation.

"There was a gap here. They needed a punter, and the kicker was a senior,'' said Violette, who kicked five field goals in one high school game.

Kicker Armando Cuko has graduated. Violette will do all the kicking in the 2010 season, which opens Saturday when William & Mary comes to Amherst.

Violette arrived at UMass with freshman eligibility in 2009. He punted for an 39-yard average, with a long of 63.

He also served as placekicker against Kansas State, when Cuko was on a one-game suspension.

Violette contributed a 35-yard field goal and two extra points in the 21-17 loss.

Double duty requires small adjustments, though it's a situation he likes.

"Practice is a little different. I'm doing a few less reps for each (specialty), so that my leg doesn't get worn out,'' Violette said.

Kickers are a different breed, but Violette wants to be part of something bigger than himself. He thinks he is.

"I think we have more team talent than individual talent,'' he said with optimism.

"Last year (in a 5-6 season) we had talent, but it didn't always fit together. I think this team fits.''

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