JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Brad Nortman grew up roughly two hours away from Lambeau Field.
The Brookfield, Wisconsin native was a Green Bay Packers fan as a child.
Now he is set to play against his hometown team on Sunday in his Jaguars regular season debut.
“It’s cool – it’s my third time playing the Packers – so the first time there was some emotional excitement but now that I’ve played them for a third time it’s just a normal game,” Nortman said.
The new Jaguars punter is more concerned about his present team than he is about his former rooting interests.
“I’m just excited to go out there, put the Jaguars jersey on and play out here in front of this crowd," Nortman said. "It’ll be exciting, I’m really happy for this team and I love this community."
Nortman was signed to a four-year, $8.8 million deal at the start of free agency, according to sports contract database Spotrac. He has the task of improving the Jaguars punting game, something the Jags struggled with throughout the tenure of former punter Bryan Anger.
“Important for us to go out and win [field position], because it helps the offense and defense,” Nortman said.
Winning the field position battle will be very important against the Packers.
Green Bay features an offense that can score from any spot on the field. Pinning the Packers deep into their own territory - through special teams - can only help the Jaguars.
“The field position game is something that gets overlooked sometimes, but it’s very important,” Nortman said. “This game and every game is very important. The NFL game – if you look across the league – comes down to seven points or less and a lot of that can be made up in the field position battle.”
Nortman is known for his directional prowess. However, he says you need to master more than just target practice to be a successful punter.
“It’s a combination of three factors: hang-time, distance and direction,” Nortman said.
“Every punter – and kicker for that matter – has that skill set. Some guys are better at direction and not at hang-time, some are good at hang-time and not direction, so I think you have to punt to your expertise and stay true that while also working on your weaknesses.”
Nortman admires the team aspect of punting. While punters take the brunt of the success or the failure of their group, Nortman acknowledges the unit has to play well to make everything work.
"Net punting is what you’re really looking for," Nortman said.
"I think net punting is one of the most team-driven stats there are. I’ve got to punt it, guys have got to cover. I try to punt them in the best situation, and they try to put me in the best situation. It’s a wonderful thing that we have such a team aspect on the punting unit.”
Nortman won't be the only punter making his regular season debut with a new club. The Packers new punter, Jacob Schum, was just added last week. Green Bay cut long-time punter Tim Masthay and replaced him with Schum, who lost a roster battle to Anger in Tampa Bay.
Schum didn't have the entire summer to bond with his punt coverage unit like Nortman did. The Packers punting predicament could lead to some miscommunication on Sunday.
“Well there’s a certain amount of non-verbal communication that plays a role in tendency that you figure out as the season goes on,” Nortman said.
“Tim was a great punter in Green Bay, now that they have Jacob there, I’m sure he’ll do a good job. I’m sure they’ll come out swinging and be in a good spot. It does take time to understand tendencies and communication – that’s a little bit of a learning curve – but we’re all pros and I sure they’ll be able to figure it out, even in a short week.”
While Nortman has downplayed his excitement about facing the Packers, he is looking forward to his Jaguars debut.
"It’s something that no matter who we were playing, I’d be excited for this game and go out there, do my best and help this team.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.