The greatest punter in NDSU history was snubbed of an NFL Combine invite. But Ben LeCompte was able to use that as an opportunity to participate in other camps and combines across the country that will provide him the exposure he needs to land on an NFL roster. We spoke to LeCompte a week before NDSU Pro Day.
Editor’s Note: This conversation took place March 15 and has been edited for print.
Bison Illustrated: Where did your journey take you after Frisco?
Ben LeCompte: “After Frisco, the following Tuesday, I moved to the Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz., area to train. Moved into an apartment out here and then I just started training out here and then I did three regional combines that were available for me to do because I wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. They are basically combines set up specifically for athletes that don’t get invited to the NFL Combine. They’re not like regional NFL Combines because kickers and punters actually can’t attend other combines, so there’s these three senior scouting combines just for kickers and punters put on by three different organizations. The first one was Super Bowl weekend. The next one was the following weekend, which I think was Valentine’s Day weekend, then I had a week off and the last weekend in February was the third combine and then I went down to Fort Lauderdale/Tampa Bay, Miami in the first weekend in March to train with one of my punting coaches. Now, I’m back in Arizona for my last week and I head back to Fargo on Saturday for pro day on Thursday.”
BI: Is that what your video from Kohl’s Kicking was about?
BL: “The one Super Bowl weekend in San Diego, that was Mike Husted, Husted Kicking Combine. On Valentine’s Day weekend, that was Kohl’s Kicking, Jamie Kohl’s Kicking Organization. The one on the last weekend in February was Garry Zauner kicking camp, and the first weekend in March when I was in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Miami, that was also with Kohl’s Kicking.”
BI: Did you do the research for the combines or did your agency, Octagon, send you to all these?
BL: “This is something I’ve done through Kohl’s Kicking, so I worked with them throughout high school and I worked with them throughout my college career on going to camps and competing with other college kids. Octagon helped me financially with the camps and stuff like that. I cut a check with my agent. But finding out about them and going to them was more just the head guy, Jamie Kohl, and my relationship with him is loose so we communicated that way.”
BI: How did you feel you stacked up against everybody else there?
BL: “I thought I performed really well at the San Diego combine. I finished first one day, second the other day. The Kohl’s Kicking Combine I made it, out of 85 punters, I made it to the Top 10, finished about fourth I think it was overall, and then, for the Garry Zauner one in the last weekend in February, I didn’t perform as well as I would’ve liked but it still went well.”
BI: What was your focus in training before your pro day?
BL: “Basically, what I was trying to do with that is, focus on not necessarily making a lot of changes, but just becoming more consistent because I have friends who are in the NFL. I’ve been around NFL punters in the summer and stuff and the phrase everybody uses is called an ‘A-Ball.’ Your best punt is your A-Ball. So I knew that my A-Ball is the same A-Ball that NFL punters can hit, it just came down to being able to hit that A-Ball as consistently as they do. So for instance, maybe I was hitting that A-Ball six or seven out of 10 times, whereas those NFL guys are hitting it 10 out of 10 times. So my training wasn’t necessarily to develop anything to become an NFL punter, it was just fine-tuning my craft to being as consistent as a punter.”
BI: You punted the ball 228 times in college, so how many would you say were A-Balls?
BL: “(Laughs) Oh man, I don’t know. I had 228 career punts, so you like to think a lot of them were A-Balls, but I don’t know. It’s tough to say. A lot of the schemes we ran at NDSU, the coaching and the athletes and the coverage units that coach (Tim) Polasek had for me could make a C-Ball look like an A-Ball, so it’s hard to say.”
BI: Are you only pursuing an NFL career in punting and kickoffs or are you trying to do a little field goal kicking, too?
BL: “The weekend in San Diego, I did kick field goals and I charted. They have what they call charting sessions. I went 17-for-20 on the charting session kicking field goals. I don’t necessarily consider myself an NFL field goal kicker by any means, but I did it because by showing NFL teams that I can kickoff, I can punt and if you take me on your roster and something happens to your kicker in the middle of the game, I can be more than confident in my ability to kick field goals for the rest of the game until the following week when somebody can step up and do it. I did it to prove that I can do it. That can be a tool in emergency situations, but I’m not planning on doing it by any means or am I marketing myself as a field goal kicker.”
BI: So you’re looking to be more of a Pat McAfee-type guy, who punts and handles kickoff duty for the Indianapolis Colts?
BL: “Yes. That’s absolutely my thought process here, and that’s what I’m going for. I’m going for a younger rookie specialist who can punt and kickoff at an NFL level, and I’m hoping to land on a team where their field goal kicker is older, he’s getting into his mid-to-late 30s and they really want to hone him in on just being a field goal kicker and splitting the uprights and taking the stress of kickoffs off his leg, because realistically four to five kickoffs is the equivalent to 15-20 field goals. To take the stress off veteran kickers with kickoffs and having a punter do it is definitely an advantage.”
BI: Why do you think an NFL team should take a chance on you?
BL: “I think an NFL team should take a chance on me as a free agent or late-round draft pick or whatever they decide just because I’ve played for five years in college. I have a lot of big game experience by playing on a huge stage, I perform really well under pressure and I’m able to perform well at any craft that’s needed. I can perform two crafts at an NFL level like I mentioned and I’m very confident in that, and then the third one being field goals. I can get a team out of a pinch or out of a bind. I watched so many times last year where a team’s kicker would go down in the middle of the game and then, the punter looks like a fish out of water trying to kickoff and kick field goals and I think I’m a specialist where that wouldn’t necessarily happen.”
BI: You didn’t go to the combine so do you feel like you’ve gotten enough exposure?
BL: “At first, I was – obviously, everybody wants to go to the NFL Combine – I was really heart- broken and bent out of shape about not going because I think, in my eyes, I deserved to go. I was the NDSU career leader, third all-time in the FCS, first all-time in the Missouri Valley, I thought I had all the career accolades and the seasons and the career to be an NFL Combine punter. But at the end of the day when I look back on it, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise that I didn’t go, because, like I said, those three combines that I went to are only open to non-combine athletes. When I look back on it now, I’m not really that bent out of shape about not going to the NFL Combine. The Chicago Bears reached out to me yesterday. I have a workout with them on April 14, but other than that, I haven’t really reached out to too many NFL teams, but it’s the process starting right now. Teams are really starting to get into interviewing guys and bringing them in to work out. The nature of the game is that punters and kickers and long snappers, we’re on the bottom of the totem pole, they’re going to reach out to the quarterbacks, the running backs, their offensive tackles, their whatever until they feel comfortable then they will get to punters and kickers last. Like I said, I’m patient, but it’s not the end of the world right now.”
BI: That’s pretty cool the team you grew up rooting for is having you in for a workout.
BL: “It’s awesome.”
BI: As a specialist, and especially as a guy who did get a combine invite, do you feel like you have to market yourself to get as much exposure as possible?
BL: “You know, kind of. The thing about the NFL Combine is, I feel like it’s a great, great opportunity for the quarterbacks, for running backs, for offensive linemen, safeties and corners. I feel like it’s an unbelievable opportunity for 22 positions to do, 11 on offense and 11 on defense, but you know, kickers and punters, I always say this and it’s my firm belief that if some guy has a great NFL Scouting Combine and punts 15-20 times in front of these scouts at has an outrageously, unbelievable day, and then I can put up film from one of the combines I went to and did the same thing. A 100-yard field is a 100-yard field, so a 50-yard punt at the combine in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine is the same thing at the combine I was at. To answer your question, yeah, I do need to market myself more because I wasn’t in front of those scouts so I need to take all that video that I have from these combines, which I have all these video files from all the combines. I tweet them, I put them on Facebook, my friends retweet them and I do market myself more than these guys they go to the NFL Combine have to. I feel like, to miss the combine as a kicker and punter is way better than to miss the combine as a player of some other sort, because it’s tough to get eyes on you if you’re a safety or offensive lineman that doesn’t get invited to the combine versus the kicker and punters. You see these success stories about kickers and punters coming out of nowhere all the time so it just takes a couple video files, and a couple people to notice you. I thought I should’ve been invited to the NFL Combine, I didn’t; it wasn’t the end of the world. I feel like I performed and did what I needed to do at the other combines I went to. Credit to Kohl’s Combine and those guys for putting the stages available for us guys who can’t go to the combine because they make it affordable, they make it a great competition weekend, a charting weekend, a live video weekend. Credit to Kohl’s Kicking for giving guys the opportunity to get their names out there when otherwise they probably wouldn’t.”
BI: Being a teammate of Carson Wentz for five years I have to ask you, what’s it like seeing him get all this attention?
BL: “It’s nuts (laughs). I joke around with him. I say, ‘You know Carson, we all missed out on cost-of-attendance, so if I don’t make it to the NFL my first year, I’m going to be charging you cost-of-friendship, buddy.’ It’s actually incredible. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, to a better person. He’s a faith-based kid, who just does everything the right way with his friendships, with his relationships, with football and his family. You see these type of success stories come out of nowhere and to finally know somebody who is a part of it, you can’t seriously be happier for him. You couldn’t wish it upon a better kid.”