Few players have made the same level of impact on Northern Illinois football as Matt Ference did during his time as the Huskies punter. But Ference has worn the red and black for the final time and is now in the process of training for the 2022 NFL Draft.
In 59 games as a Huskie, Ference booted 310 punts for a total of 12,991 yards. His 41.9 yards per punt average makes him NIU's all-time leader in that category. During his freshman season, Ference recorded the longest punt of his career with a 70-yard bomb vs. Central Michigan. That game saw him punt the ball 10 times for 439 yards.
Ference held down the starting punter job at Northern Illinois from the moment he arrived in DeKalb and left the position in an excellent spot for the next man up. NIU head coach Thomas Hammock often described Ference as a weapon for his team as Matt played a vital role in flipping the field to set the opposing offense up with a lengthy distance to travel.
Matt Ference's Skill Set
During his career at Northern Illinois, Matt Ference played a huge role on the special teams units, and not only as a punter. He also served as the Huskies' placeholder for field goals.
Upon breaking down Ference's tape, it's evident that his punts have ample enough hang time to give his coverage units the opportunity to get down the field and make life difficult for the returner.
As I observed at numerous NIU practices, Ference could always be found with a ball and his group of specialists working on kicking, drops, and generally staying active until the final whistle blew. He earned MAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors and made the All-MAC Academic Team on several occasions.
Ference is always one of the hardest workers in the room who leads by example. He possesses an accurate and powerful leg that will allow him the opportunity to chase his dream of playing in the NFL.
2022 NFL Draft Outlook
In preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft, Matt Ference was a full participant in Northern Illinois' Pro Day on March 30. After his former position player teammates finished their workouts, Ference punted in front of the 11 teams in attendance for the workout. He also attended the Chicago Bears' rookie pro day as a result of his performance at NIU Pro Day.
Now, I know what you're probably thinking: punters don't get drafted. And for the most part, that sentiment is true. But Ference has a gifted leg, knows where to place the ball, and very rarely shanks a punt.
After witnessing the vast majority of Ference's punts at NIU, I can confirm that he is the real deal when it comes to flipping the field. He even has a firm grasp on the toughest task for a punter: the coffin corner punt.
Following his showing at NIU Pro Day, Ference had extended conversations with scouts from some of the teams in attendance. One team that comes to mind with a need at the punter position is the Chicago Bears, so it's not surprising he attended their rookie pro day. Punting in unpredictable Illinois weather conditions for the last five seasons could make Ference a prime target for the Bears. A punter must account for rain, sleet, snow, and high winds -- all of which the former Huskie has experience with.
Matt Ference projects as an undrafted free agent at the next level, but I foresee him earning an opportunity and punting during the 2022 NFL preseason.