It’s time for another special teamer in our list. There haven’t been many better in his position than this guy.
Miami Dolphins (1983-1992)
Washington Redskins (1993-1994)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995)
Houston Oilers (1996-1997)
San Francisco 49ers (1998)
WHY IS HE IMPORTANT?
As a punter, Reggie Roby was a bit different. Not only was he one of the very few African-American kickers to have played in the NFL, he was also one of the very few punters who didn’t jump as they kicked the ball. More importantly, he was (arguably) the pioneer of the two step method of punting, whereby the punter does not kick the ball as soon as it is snapped to him.
Roby was dedicated to his craft. He often wore a watch whilst playing, so that he could measure the hang time that his kicks were getting. He put his uncharacteristically poor performance in Superbowl XIX down to, quite simply, trying too hard to make the perfect kick. That game came at the start of his career and he never reached another championship game, but Dolphins coach Don Shula not only regarded him as being the best punter in the NFL, but also a vital factor in the team’s game plan, as his accuracy would give them a distinct advantage over opponents when it came to determining field position.
His departure from Miami was also different. He was declared bankrupt in 1993, which meant that he would have become a free agent at the end of that season. To ensure that they still got some compensation for a very good player, the Dolphins traded him to Washington. He never had a long spell with another team, but by the time he retired at the end of 1998 he had played for sixteen consecutive seasons, which (as we have often noted in this series) you just don’t get to do in the NFL without being at the very top of your game for a very long time.
Sadly, Roby did not get to enjoy his retirement. He was found dead at home on 22 February 2005. His cause of death was never revealed, although it is believed to have been a heart attack. He was just 43.