Dante Pettis is the best punt returner in NCAA history

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 16: Wide receiver Dante Pettis
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 16: Wide receiver Dante Pettis /
SEATTLE, WA – OCTOBER 28: Wide receiver Dante Pettis
SEATTLE, WA – OCTOBER 28: Wide receiver Dante Pettis /

Dante Pettis returned another punt for a touchdown. Washington Football takes lead, Pettis takes NCAA record

The Washington Football team needed a reminder of just how good they can be. Dante Pettis did his best to remind them. Running a punt back for a touchdown is one of the most difficult outcomes in collegiate football.  Until today, the record for punts returned for a touchdown stood at eight.  Three players held that record jointly.   Washington’s Dante Pettis, Oklahoma’s Anthony Perkins, and Texas Tech’s Wes Welker.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd.  Dante Pettis felt crowded.

The play started with Oregon’s possession at fourth down and four to go on the Oregon 32 yard line.   The hike landed the ball in the hands of Oregon’s punter Adam Stack who hoofed the ball high into the air  for 32 yards, into the waiting hands of Dante Pettis.

Ball in hands

The key to returning a punt occurs in the first five steps. Immediately, Pettis steps to his right and bursts forward. One Oregon player missed him and off Pettis went. By the time he reached the 40 yard line, he had a full head-of-steam and threaded the timely blocks of two teammates.

Related Story: How do you catch the Oregon at Washington Football game?

At the 43 yard line, Pettis was already scanning the field and noticed that defenders had over-pursued to his left. As he often does, he simply redirects his vector to where defenders are not. Like a fighter jet, he turned and then leveled out.

50 yard line

By the 50 yard line, Pettis was already seeing the field 20 yards ahead. Gearing down, he noticed another Oregon defender at the 45 yard line closing in for the tackle. He faked left and then cut right, to the outside of the defender. He hurdled the outstretched arm of one defender at the 45 yard line.

Another defender lay in wait at the 40. Pettis burst into a sprint and simply ran as hard as he could to his right to evade his third tackle. By this time, his heart was pounding hard but his mind continued to process what he saw, what he felt. Evasiveness helped him to the 35 yard line, but the key to scoring is knowing when to jook and when to jet.

As Dante Pettis cleared the Oregon 40 yard line, Pettis knew it was time to jet.

Oregon 40… 30… 20…

Now Pettis began to realize that this could be the one. He had cleared 30 yards so far, but the endzone lay clearly in front of him. Oregon defenders were all in pursuit from his left or behind him. And that made it a footrace. Looking back at the 25 yard line, the thrill of the moment rose to his throat. Buoyed at the magnificence of the moment, his feet worked like the pistons of a race car. No Oregon defender was close.

As he cleared the 20 yard line, Pettis looked to his right, capturing the panoramic view of the field, of Husky Stadium. Capturing the cheering fans in the stands, of his teammates and coaches cheering him on. As he continued on to pass the ten-yard line, he curled towards the goal post and looked left and right.

Record broken, magic restored

He eyes, his mind captured the full impact of the moment. His feet carried him into the endzone. At that moment, the NCAA record was shattered. Wide receiver/returner Dante Pettis not only set a record, he restored a moment of glory to his team.

Pettis is not about ego, bright lights, or ego. He is a confident, soft-spoken young man who has a nose for the end zone unlike any other football player. He has strong family ties, and he is 100 percent a team player.

Next: Will Washington football offense roar against Oregon this year?

We asked the question earlier in the season. Will Dante Pettis break the NCAA punt return record this year? We know the answer to that now.  Congratulations to Dante Pettis, the Washington Huskies, and the Pettis family.

A great moment in history just happened for a great young man.