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Two/three-star punter Johnny Townsend (Orlando, FL) has become the 30th member of the Florida Gators‘ 2013 recruiting class after sending in his National Letter of Intent to the school on Thursday afternoon.
Townsend, ranked 14th nationally by Rivals and 9th nationally by ESPN among punters, had been committed to Ohio State since June 19, 2012 but did not submit his NLI to the school as expected during National Signing Day on Wednesday.
He was supposed to sign his paper in the morning but twice delayed his press conference before ultimately choosing not to make a decision. His family told reporters that a “personal matter” had sprung up unexpectedly.
Rumors began to circulate during the day that Townsend was considering an offer from Alabama. Late Wednesday evening, Florida reportedly jumped into the picture as team he might sign with on Thursday, a move that ultimately went down when the Gators announced that they had received his signed NLI at 3:30 p.m.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Townsend received separate phone calls on Monday from Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, both of whom extended scholarship offers to the punter. It was those conversations that made him reconsider his nearly eight-month-long commitment.
Read the rest of this story and watch a video interview with Townsend…
“I was in complete shock,” Townsend told the paper’s Chris Hays. “I was sitting down with family, saying some prayers and wondering out loud if all of this was happening for a reason. Like, what if this was just something that was meant to be. So I just started to weigh my options and trying to figure out where my heart was. [...]
“It has been absolutely unreal. I never would have thought my phone would be ringing with Coach Saban and Coach Muschamp both offering me scholarships. It’s just absolutely incredible.”
He had previously been offered a preferred walk-on spot with the Gators.
Townsend after averaged 44.6 yards per punt as a senior and won both the 2012 Nick Saban Punting Competition and 2012 Chas Henry All-American Kicking Camp Punting Competition. He participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January and was honored with the Felix “Doc” Blanchard Award for epitomizing “the Army’s high standard of excellence in community service, education and athletic distinction.”
Townsend, who has also played kicker, safety and quarterback (as well as baseball) in high school, is an Eagle Scout as well as was a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. His parents (Clay Sr. and Susan) are both alumni of the University of Florida and his older brother Clay is currently a sophomore at UF.
With sophomore Kyle Christy returning as an entrenched starter for the Gators in 2013, Townsend will likely wind up redshirting as a freshman.
OGGOA first reported on Wednesday that the Gators have also added kicker Danny Krysalka (Ocala, FL) as a preferred walk-on. Krysalka will compete with freshman Austin Hardin (who redshirted in 2012) and junior Brad Phillips for the starting job.