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Colgate, COVID, Switzerland, Penn State: The Barney Amor Story

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Barney Amor

“It seems like a made-up story when you think about it.”

Penn State fans already love punter Barney Amor.

Those who don’t know the “story” he mentioned to reporters after Penn State’s 33-14 win over Central Michigan Saturday will love him more after reading it.

Amor’s predecessors, Blake Gillikin and Jordan Stout excelled at Penn State and are now starters in the NFL.

Is it premature to proclaim that Amor will be joining them? Maybe.

Amor has only punted in four games for Penn State, and although he’s doing his job exceptionally well, a sad reality for athletes is that the wheels could fall off at any time.

But right this second, it looks like Barney Amor will be playing in the National Football League.

Amor is already a fan favorite, mainly because of his on-field performance.

He punted four times in Saturday’s win over Central Michigan, averaging 44.5 yards.

One punt went out of bounds at Central Michigan’s 3-yard line. Amor had another downed at the six and, perhaps most importantly, had one go for 51 yards before being fumbled and recovered by Penn State’s Curtis Jacobs.

On the season, Amor has punted 18 times for a 46.1-yard average.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher told reporters after Saturday’s game. “But he does it.”

So how does Barney think he does it?

“I would say its like 70% skill and 30% everything else,” Amor told reporters.

The “everything else” includes factors such as wind and luck that can help make or break a punter.

Gillikin and Stout set the bar at Penn State this decade, and Stout’s act is the one Amor has to follow.

Coming from a small pond like Colgate (stadium capacity: 10,221) to the ocean that is Penn State (107,000 strong) can already be intimidating enough, and that’s what Amor decided to do before the 2021 season.

Having to play behind an All-American and Ray Guy Award finalist in Stout could have added to that intimidation.

“Was I planning on coming and playing behind the best punter in the country?” Amor said. “No.”

The downside of Stout being at Penn State was obvious— Amor didn’t get to play in 2021.

But if you’re going to play behind somebody, it might as well be a guy who some, including Amor, felt was the best punter in college football.

“I learned so much from being behind him,” Amor said, “that it makes it so much more valuable.”

On the surface, it’s already a success story: player transfers from Colgate to the Big Ten, spends a year on the bench, earns a scholarship, has a guy named Eli Manning tell him he’s earned a scholarship and becomes a key contributor.

It also doesn’t hurt that Amor has displayed a fun-loving, laid-back personality.

During training camp, Amor gave Twitter a rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Since You’ve Been Gone.”

Saturday, when Amor was talking with perhaps the largest scrum ever gathered around a Penn State punter, it didn’t seem like anything could have bothered him.

It felt as if somebody could fire a full bottle of Gatorade at Amor’s head, and he’d have remained unaffected.

But digging deeper than on the field or even in the media, Amor’s story is better.

And it’s not “made-up.”

Amor’s college football career started at Colgate in 2017. He played there for three seasons and was going to play in 2020 before COVID-19 ruined it.

The pandemic affected a lot of athletes, but for Amor, it was especially brutal.

You see, because of his father’s work, Amor’s family was living  in Switzerland at the time.

After the pandemic sent everybody home from school, Amor couldn’t travel there to be with them because of restrictions.

So he lived with his girlfriend’s family in Virginia for more than a year.

During that time, Amor tried to find a school.

Amor worked hard to have coaches notice him.

With all the work Amor put in— he said he messaged every FBS special teams coach— the call that got him to transfer to Penn State was pretty anti-climactic.

” Hey man, do you want to come here?” Amor remembers a Penn State assistant asking on a call.

“Sweet. I’ll come for sure,” Amor responded.

Ahh, but the story of how Penn State found Amor is a good one, too.

Penn State analyst Eric Raisbeck used to coach in Switzerland and discovered that Amor’s parents were there.

The two bonded, and that bond helped lead the Doylestown, Pennsylvania, native to Penn State.

So Amor came to Penn State, and although he had been playing college football since 2017, he didn’t have a ton of in-game experience.

Amor didn’t play in any games during the 2017 or ’18 seasons. He got his shot at Colgate in 2019 and took advantage of it, finishing second in the Patriot League with a 42.1-yard punting average.

Then, Amor didn’t get to play in 2020 because of COVID and didn’t get to play in 2021 because of Jordan Stout.

At Penn State’s media day Aug. 6, coach James Franklin let on that Amor was likely going to be Penn State’s starting punter in 2022.

Seventeen days after that, Manning told Amor that he’d earned a scholarship.

Nine days later, Amor was Penn State’s starting punter for its season opener at Purdue.

In Ross-Ade Stadium before a network TV audience, Amor’s first punt went for 52-yards and was fair-caught by Purdue’s Charlie Jones at its 9-yard line.

Amor punted seven more times that night and averaged 46.9 yards per kick.

He hasn’t looked back.

“All the kids that I didn’t get along with in high school all now want to be friends,” Amor said. “I mean that in the most sincere way because it’s kind of just become full circle. That’s one of the coolest things for me— how much everything’s shifted.”

Things could shift even more on draft day.

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