Published October 03. 2013 4:00AM
New London - Tyler Henning was a second-team New England Football Conference All-Bogan Division pick as a freshman last season as the kicker for the Coast Guard Academy football team. He received that fanfare after going 39-for-39 on extra-point attempts and connecting on a game-winning field goal to beat Worcester State in overtime.
Nowhere in his job description does it say anything about Henning, the punter.
"At the beginning we were looking for someone to take his place. Now someone has to beat him out," Coast Guard coach Bill George said recently.
In the last two weeks, Henning has flourished as both the punter and the kicker for the Bears (1-3 overall, 1-0 NEFC), who play at home this weekend against Western New England.
In a week three battering at the hands of powerful Hampden-Sydney, Henning punted 11 times for a total of 419 yards (38.1 yards per kick), including a 56-yarder.
Last week, in Coast Guard's NEFC opener against Nichols, a 37-20 victory, Henning was back wearing his kicker's hat, accounting for 13 of the Bears' points on three field goals and four extra points.
In the first half of the Nichols game, when Coast Guard took a 20-13 lead, Henning claimed eight of the points, in addition to pinning Nichols back at its 5-yard-line with one of his four punts. Henning's field goals against the Bison came from 33, 26 and 32 yards.
His season-long field goal was a 44-yarder in a loss to Merchant Marine in week two. He is currently 6-for-7 on field goal attempts and 9-for-9 on extra points this season, giving him the Bears' scoring lead with 27 points.
"He has been just unbelievable," Coast Guard captain Nick Phillips said after Saturday's win. "He was all-conference last year and for him to come back and be … better? There are definitely times he's gets overlooked, but I try to tell him every time, 'Nice job, man.' He's a great, great kid.
"He's nailed some 30-yarders that would be good from 50-plus."
Henning, a 6-foot, 180-pound native of Cypress, Texas, was the kicker for Cypress Ranch High School, as well as captaining the school's soccer team.
Henning said he believes he's improved as a punter, something that's new to him since arriving at the academy.
"I would like to think so. I know it's one of my weaker points," Henning said. "If it helps the team, it helps the team. If I still have to do it next year, I'll be happy to do it."
He's also increased his field goal range, saying whereas before he felt comfortable from 35 yards and in, now he feels at ease from 40 yards and in.
"I feel a lot stronger," he said. "Working in the weight room has helped a lot. I feel there's a big difference. … My longest in a game is 47 yards. In practice, I hit a 64, with a snap and a hold but no defense. After that, I just left. I ended on a good note."
Said George: "Tyler's the hardest-working kicker we've had. I'm starting to give him a lot of leeway. He seems to be to the point now if he wants to do something at practice, I let him do it. … He's money in the bank. He's playing well."
Celebrate New London
• Coast Guard is offering complimentary tickets for New London Public School students and their families to attend Saturday's game against Western New England at Cadet Memorial Field (1:30 p.m.) as part of Celebrate New London Day.
Students from New London's elementary, middle and high schools may sign up for their tickets in the main office at their schools. Elementary school children will receive their tickets in Friday folders this week. There will also be a will-call booth at Leemy Hall on the Coast Guard campus for students and their families to pick up their free tickets on game day.
For more information, visit www.newlondon.org, facebook.com/NLPS.CT or www.CGASports.com on the Web.