The punter in football is someone who doesn’t always get a lot of credit. Sure, the punter is someone who can kick the ball far, but the punter isn’t making the game winning touchdown catches or forcing fumbles as a linebacker.
That however, is not true for Orange Coast College punter Jake Ambrose. Ambrose, a 21-year-old liberal arts major, was named co-captain by OCC’s head football coach Kevin Emerson and made his debut as captain on Oct. 11 against Los Angeles Pierce College.
“Jake is a Division One punter, there’s no doubt,” Emerson said. “He’s one of the highest ranked punters in our conference and in Southern California.”
But Ambrose wasn’t named a captain overnight. Last year, he had a season-ending injury, which sidelined him.
The injury was to remove a cyst from his tailbone, but according to Ambrose, he said that he landed on it funny and doesn’t remember how he suffered it. All he remembers is that he was bummed out that he would not play that year, which marked the first time he missed a football season in his playing career.
“It was definitely hard to deal with, but I think it worked out for the better and I had to look at it as a positive,” Ambrose said. “They [the doctors] pretty much left the wound open and I couldn’t do anything, so I took it easy for about two months.”
When he returned, in the season and home opener against Chaffey College this year, Ambrose said it felt good to get the pads back on and join his team.
Ambrose has punted for 1,678 yards this year with zero touchbacks (punts that go out of bounds or into the endzone). The farthest he’s punted this year is 58 yards and he averages 40 yards per punt.
“My injury is all good now and it definitely shouldn’t be an issue,” Ambrose said. “The injury has made me more confident because I don’t have any pain anymore. It’s a relief.”
Ambrose said that he is honored to be named a team captain and what he likes about being a captain is that his teammates and coaches think of him so highly. The responsibilities are making sure the team isn’t messing around, keeping focus and being a team leader.
“Jake leads by example. He’s not a real ra-ra guy, but he’s always done what we’ve asked him to do and that’s what we’re looking for in leaders,” Emerson said. “He meets our three main requirements: he’s on time every day, he has a great work ethic and he has a good attitude, so you put those three things together and you put his talent on the field, and that makes him a team captain type of guy.”
While the brown haired 5-foot and 11-inch 200-pound kicker can’t punt from endzone to endzone, Ambrose, who is the first punter in his family, said his biggest inspiration is punter Steve Weatherford of the New York Giants.
Ambrose’s daily workout routine is different on certain days. On Mondays and Thursdays, Ambrose works out his legs, Tuesdays and Fridays he works on his upper body and on Wednesdays, he works on his abs.
When he isn’t on the football field or in the workout room, Ambrose likes to have fun with his friends.
“Jake works all day in practice and then he’ll go and do extra lessons and work with extra kicking coaches. He’s taken care of his classes as well and he’s doing extra things in the classroom. When you’re doing extra things in the classroom and extra things on the field, that’s what’s going to make you a special athlete,” Emerson said.
A graduate from Newport Harbor High School, Ambrose started playing football when he was 6.
While at Newport Harbor, Ambrose also played lacrosse, but no longer plays because he wants to focus on school and football. Ambrose said he chose to be a punter because he used to be a linebacker, but he knew he would go far as a punter.
Others at the high school noticed his talent.
“Jake was a good punter. What I liked about him was his work ethic, how he worked hard in the weight room and how he improved his craft,” Newport Harbor head football coach Jeff Brinkley said.
Kicker Griff Amies, a 20-year-old communications major who has been friends with Ambrose since Ambrose was in the ninth grade and Amies was in the eighth grade, said he has received wise advice from Ambrose.
“Jake is excellent. He’s probably the best junior college punter in the nation and I can’t wait to see how far he goes,” Amies said. “He’s my holder for my field goals. He tells me to stay calm and he tells me that I got this. He’s told me that every time I go out to the field and it really calms me down and helps me out a lot.”
Ambrose lives on Balboa Island in Newport Beach with his parents. He said his pregame ritual is to put on his headphones, listen to country music and get relaxed and his mind straight. His favorite quote is “Don’t be afraid to be great” by John D. Rockefeller.
Ambrose’s most memorable game was in his senior year of high school when he and Newport Harbor’s football team beat Back Bay rival Corona Del Mar High School at OCC. His team was down at the half but came back to win the game, he said.
Ambrose said he plans to play football on the next level and hopes to play football at a four-year university and eventually in the National Football League or work at his dad’s job engineering contracting businesses.
“My advice to future football players is to keep working hard, and when times get tough pull through it and good things will happen,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose will also be playing in the fifth annual Junior College All American football game Dec. 9-13 in Glendale, Ariz. as one of 42 candidates to play in the game.
“I’m actually really excited to be playing in the game. I thought it was cool that I got a call out of 42 players. I’m honored to play,” Ambrose said.