A Penn State punting star like no other. Who's got a story like Barney Amor?
STATE COLLEGE − He was living with his girlfriend's family in Virginia when he got the call that changed his football life.
Barney Amor couldn't do what he loved a couple of years ago, punting the football. COVID canceled his team's season at Colgate University.
He couldn't even see his parents. They were living and working in Switzerland and he couldn't travel there because of the pandemic.
What was an out-of-work punter, so to speak, to do?
When Penn State coaches realized he was in the transfer portal, they did some research and eventually figured they would invite him in as a walk-on − to wait and learn and maybe be a backup, maybe fight for a starting spot one day.
Strangely enough now, Amor is becoming a cult hero kind of football star for the Nittany Lions.
He worked his punting voodoo again Saturday against Central Michigan, somehow getting three more punts to hit and spin and kick backwards and sideways and even off a returner's hands. Almost every one of his kicks, it seems now, remarkably dies inside the 10 yard line.
You could say he even swung momentum in the disjointed victory over the Chippewas. His sky-high bomb early in the third quarter pinned the returner against the sideline where he waved for a fair catch but seemed uncertain as to how and handle it.
He muffed it, Penn State recovered the fumble and then scored a touchdown two plays later.
This is a punter, mind you. The guy working on his third college degree. The one who just earned his scholarship a few weeks ago because how could you not give the best special teams performer on the team a free ride, after all?
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Amor kept offering to tell his story after the Central Michigan game.
The kid who, before the season-opener, last punted in college three years ago against Lafayette.
The phone call that just got him to Penn State? Amor remembers a Penn State assistant reaching out something like this:
"Hey man, you want to come here?"
Armor: "Sweet, I'll come for sure."
What a road to even get to now. "It seems like a made-up story when you think about it."
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Armor starred at Central Bucks East High where he was one of the top kickers and punters in Pennsylvania. He went to FCS Colgate but didn't see any field action in 2017 or the next year.
He got his shot in 2019 and was good on the small stage. He was second-best in the Patriot League with his 42.1-yard average. He had one playing season left.
But COVID abruptly canceled Colgate's 2020 season and jumbled his football life. He ended up staying with his new girlfriend's family for what turned into a year while working out and looking for another college landing place. He reached out to about every FBS coaching staff in the country.
He finally took that no-pay offer from Penn State and spent last year waiting and learning behind Jordan Stout, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top punter.
Armor won the starting job this summer, got his scholarship and has been dropping punts in crazy locations ever since. He's averaging an impressive 46 yards a try. More importantly, no one is returning his kicks. He's placed 10 of his 18 inside the 20 yard line, almost every one of those inside the 10.
His one that rolled into the end zone? Never should have happened. Penn State coverage guys muffed it at the 1 yard line at Purdue.
He swears that he can control that backspin bounce when it lands through simple practice, the kind of magic akin to wedge shots in golf and using English shooting pool.
And when you just about make the other team drop a punt and turn the ball over, well ...
Fans are yelling for him, TV announcers are praising him, teammates are mobbing him after another remarkable bounce goes his way.
He laughed about his sudden success and building fame, joking how everything in life is changing.
"I went to high school and all the kids I didn’t get along with now all want to be friends. I mean that in the most sincere way. It’s kind of come like full-circle. It's one of the coolest things for me, how much everything shifted."
Meanwhile, his parents still live in Switzerland, his brother lives in China.
He earned sociology and education degrees at Colgate, is now working on a master's in management and organizational leadership.
"I just do my job (on the football field). That's what people expect," he said matter-of-factly. "My job is to put it inside the 10, (along) the sideline."
The most unexpected football star around.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.