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Punting to success: Augustana's Drew Jurgens has found his place after passing on college hoops career

DWU men’s basketball transfer Drew Jurgens is excelling in his role with the Vikings.

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Augustana's Drew Jurgens punts the ball from Augustana's own 8-yard line during a college football game against Upper Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 in Sioux Falls. (Courtesy photo from Jurgens Digital Media)

SIOUX FALLS — For someone who never planned on punting a football through college, Drew Jurgens has made a pretty good career out of it.

Jurgens, who stands at 6-foot-8, planned to play college basketball at Dakota Wesleyan. But when that wasn't going to work out for the Brandon Valley High School product, he was recruited to come to Sioux Falls and punt for Augustana University.

And Jurgens has been booming kicks ever since. Now in his senior year with Augustana, Jurgens averages 40.29 yards per punt, ranking him top-30 overall in all of NCAA Division II football, and has played a role in the Vikings' breakthrough success in 2021.

Augustana (9-2) will host an NCAA Division II first-round playoff game at noon on Saturday, Nov. 20 against Bemidji State (9-2) in Sioux Falls. It's just the second time in school history that the Vikings have hosted a playoff game at Kirkeby-Over Stadium, where the Vikings have won 11 straight games.

In the last three seasons, the Vikings have gone 25-9, with Jurgens helping along in special teams. This season, he's averaging nearly 40 yards per punt, with only two touchbacks, five downed inside the 20-yard line and seven punts of 50 yards or more.

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"I’ve been working hard trying to perfect my craft and trying to help the team out,” Jurgens said. “It just worked really well with me last year and this year as well.”

The last time he punted in the playoffs, in a Nov. 23, 2019 game against Colorado State-Pueblo, Jurgens averaged 46.7 yards per punt, which now ranks as the fifth-best yards per punt average in a single game in Augustana history.

Jurgens came to the DWU basketball team as a two-sport athlete, being named all-Eastern South Dakota Conference for football during his senior year. His senior basketball season included a 22-point, eight-rebound performance at the Corn Palace in a Lynx' win. But Jurgens found playing time hard to come by in his initial season, with forwards Jason Spicer and Kellen Barden in the Tigers' rotation, plus the addition of Black Hills State transfer Samuel McCloud.

"(DWU) brought in a transfer and already had some guys, so I probably wasn’t as good as they were,” Jurgens said. “That’s what they wanted to do and it just didn’t end up working out.”

After redshirting his freshman season for the Tigers, Augustana special teams coordinator/defensive line coach Kelly Scholten, who was once part of Brandon Valley’s coaching staff, reached out to his former punter and asked if he wanted to try out for the Vikings. Jurgens made the transfer, tried out for the team and earned the starting job.

Once the season wraps up, Jurgens will turn all his attention to the nursing program so he can complete his degree and follow in his grandmother’s footsteps in becoming a full-time nurse. Jurgens admits handling nursing school and being on the football team can be challenging, but football, along with his teammates, makes the commitment well worth it.

“It’s definitely a little stressful, but when I get to play football and have fun every day, it makes up for some of it,” Jurgens said. “Going into the locker room and seeing all my buddies makes it better. Being on a team like this, with a good culture is a release from all the stress and I’ll miss it.”

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Augustana's Drew Jurgens punts the ball during a college football game against Upper Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 in Sioux Falls. (Courtesy photo from Jurgens Digital Media)

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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