Huber gets in some work during the Bengals June minicamp. (Bengals photo)
Updated: 11:10 a.m.
The Bengals signed up Kevin Huber on Thursday but he'd been in the fold long before they plucked him off the corner of Wolfangel and Clough three months ago in the NFL Draft.
That will happen when you grow up 15 miles from the riverfront in Anderson Township. You're already under contract in a way.
Take a few weeks ago the morning after the draft picks returned from the rookie symposium in Florida. Huber, an All-American, the best special-teamer in all the land via consensus and the only punter on the roster, cut a lonely figure in Paul Brown Stadium punting a bag of footballs he had dragged out to the field from the office of equipment managers Jeff Brickner and Adam Knollman.
No coach. No long snapper. No rush.
"You have to give yourself a sense of urgency," Huber says. "When you're in the back of the end zone just trying to get it out, you do it quicker than usual. You just have to put your mind in that situation."
Huber puts himself in all kinds of situations during those hour-long solo sessions he figures he punts 40-45 times. Back line of the end zone. Inside the 50-yard line looking to drill a ball out of bounds deep. Outside midfield looking to exploit his college specialty of booming 50-plus yarders.
Even though Cincinnati is the only place he's ever kicked at McNicholas High School and then the University of Cincinnati, he's still trying to get used to the wind.
"The wind is a little bit different in every field, every stadium," Huber says. "(PBS) is different than kicking across the street on the practice field. You just have to get used to it. I don't know if it's the river or what, but there always does seem to be some wind in the stadium even if it's hot. I try to see what direction it tends to go in and how it reacts."
There is one situation Huber doesn't have to make up in his head. The Bengals plotted it out for him just a few days after they took him in the fifth round. They cut their other two punters, most notably five-year incumbent Kyle Larson. With the Bengals still one over the limit of 80 players they can bring to training camp signed, they've clearly said he's the guy.
"One good thing is that Coach (Darrin) Simmons can spend a lot of time with me giving individual attention," Huber says. "But it is kind of nice to have somebody there with you every day reminding you how important it is to stay on top of your game if you want to stay in the league. I'm going to have to do that by myself and constantly remind myself."
It has been a good summer of bonding. Right after minicamp ended in mid-June, Huber and kicker Shayne Graham flew into Kansas City for long snapper Brad St. Louis' football camp. Earlier this week Huber hooked up with Simmons at The Grizzly near Kings Island for their first golf match. Simmons, a notorious long hitter, beat him. Huber had already been through another morning workout at PBS and he let Simmons know he was ready to do a deal so he would have to worry about only one brand of hang time.
"We're getting to know each other, I think. I'm getting a feel for him," Huber says. "He's taught me a lot already about technique."
It was on the golf course, of course, where Huber got the call back in April that his hometown team picked him. It's a coincidence, but Huber had planned to be at the same California Golf Course Thursday on the day he signed his contract.
Maybe 18 holes are as good as a solo stadium session.
"There is a lot of the same rhythm to a golf swing and kicking," Huber says. "A lot of it is the same concepts. An example is if you come inside out with your swing or leg, you're going to go across your body. You don't want to do that doing either of them."
Only this time he'll have a few more bucks for green fees.
"It was time to sign," he says. "I didn't want to keep it hanging around and waiting to the last minute. I've got other things I need to concentrate on."