Out of Georgia’s 31 seniors who are set to depart, one of the most important may have come at a position that doesn’t receive much fame.
Cameron Nizialek’s brief career as Georgia's starting punter came to an end Monday night, and he gave the program one of its best performances at the position since 2009, when Drew Butler averaged 48.1 yards per punt as a sophomore.
Nizialek fell short of that staggering statistic with 45 yards per punt this season. That mark was good for ninth nationally, and it came on only 61 punts, the second-lowest total within the top 10. His longest boot of the season was 59 yards against Vanderbilt, but there were plenty of important moments when Nizialek was able to flip the field and create a momentum swing.
It was something that Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had been longing for on special teams. Nizialek’s praises were sung throughout the season as his arrival was part of a complete turnaround of the unit’s success.
As Nizialek sat at his locker to reflect upon his goal of playing for a Power 5 program, he highlighted a number of special moments.
“It has really been an amazing year and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience here,” Nizialek said as he sat at his locker after Georgia’s 26-23 national championship loss to Alabama. “Coming from where I did, this has been incredible for me and I’m really proud of the guys in this locker room.”
Nizialek came from Columbia, where he performed in front of a few thousand Ivy League fans. Therefore, the first time he walked onto Sanford Stadium in front of nearly 93,000 fans, he was in awe.
With the hopes of punting for an NFL team, he knew he needed national exposure. Little did he know it would come as much as it did. Nizialek showed his work on national television each week, including an NBC broadcast against Notre Dame, a number of CBS broadcasts, the Rose Bowl and the national title game.
Nizialek averaged over 40 yards per punt in 14 of 15 contests this season, with the outlier coming against Tennessee at 35.2. It is possible he receives an NFL combine invite this winter.
“I’ve performed on the big stage, and hopefully that translates to the next level if I’m able to get that opportunity,” Nizialek said.
Nizialek's efforts helped make special teams a strength for Georgia, just after being a glaring weakness a season ago.
With Nizialek gone, Georgia could revert back to Marshall Long, who took a redshirt in 2017 while recovering from knee surgery. The Bulldogs could also turn to a specialist it gave a scholarship to in its 2018 class.
Jake Camarda, a three-star recruit out of Norcross, ranks as the sixth-best specialist nationally and is seen as both a punter and a place-kicker. As a senior, Camarda averaged 46.2 yards per punt with a long of 65.
Each player in Georgia’s special teams’ room – including Camarda who is not yet on campus – has built a rapport with Nizialek. In turn, he carries confidence in a smooth transition next season.
“Marshall, Bill (Rubright) and Jake are not only great punters, but great kids as well,” Nizialek said. “I’ve seen them (practice) throughout the season, and I think Georgia is in good hands on special teams. I’m confident that it’ll be back on top again next year. I’m always here for them.”