THOMASVILLE – Punters are people too. This phrase became popular as NFL legend and punter Pat McAfee rose to fame. Since then, people have been taking more notice of punters and that certainly rings true for Thomas County Central’s Hayden Morales. As Morales enters his senior year with an all-region selection and a four star rating on his belt, the senior has high expectations for this Yellow Jackets crew.
“The big thing we’re looking at is a state title. I think that’s what every high school football team is looking at. I want to see us be as successful as we can and I’ll do what I have to do in order for us to be there,” said Morales. “I think we are just as talented as last year and can go just as far.”
Morales has been punting since his sophomore year. He didn’t play much his first year, but took the field as a junior and shined. Morales is currently the Yellow Jackets starting punter and is in a battle for the kick off position with field goal kicker Drew Reneau. But a four star rating and all the success he has had doesn’t come easy. Morales has worked hard for his achievements.
“There were days where I had team work outs and team training in the morning and then I’d drive to Tallahassee in the afternoons,” said Morales. “So, it was definitely strenuous on me and I had to take time away from my parents and my summer, honestly. That was kind of how I decided to spend my summer was trying to work on my punting and kicking. I think that that work I put in will pay off.”
Morales spent a lot of time going to camps and learning from people at FAMU and Florida State. All of this has helped him achieve a four star rating and led to him improving his skills.
“Getting a four star rating, it’s a little different than other positions,” said Morales. “Four star ratings for kickers involves going to a showcase camps. That takes travel and time and it just takes a lot of work.”
Often times on the collegiate and professional level, kickers are seen as separate from the rest of the team. They don’t often experience the camaraderie that other players on offense and defense do. However, Morales said it isn’t that way at Central, that the Yellow Jackets are a family.
“We’re all brothers here. Nobody views anybody separately. They involve us and we’re involved with them. We do work separate a lot, but when it’s time for us to takes things serious, we’re not viewed as a separate group compared to anybody else. ”
Morales and his Yellow Jacket family are shooting for a state title this year and there is no doubt that Morales will be a big part of that success this season.