BY LEXI CHURCHILL CONTRIBUTING WRITER
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE COLQUITT FAMILY, DENVER BRONCOS AND KC CHIEFS MEDIA RELATIONS
Dustin and Britton Colquitt glance at their phones to find those words before each game; a message fueled by faith and sent by their mother. The saying serves as a constant reminder of who they’re playing for. It’s not the crowd of thousands of people, but a one-man audience, watching their one-man show.
With the message in mind, the players suit up and take the field to get started. They stand beside each other, going through the same motions, aiming for the same target, just with different jerseys on their backs. After the brothers finish their kicking warmups side by side, they part, Britton joining the Broncos and Dustin, the Chiefs. Let the games begin.
THE FIRST FAMILY OF FOURTH DOWN
The Colquitts never threw things. That just wasn’t their way of life. They kicked stuff. It was always your typical “Hey, I bet I can hit that house across the street from here;” those childhood shenanigans that the neighbors called complaining about. However, growing up, their ammo wasn’t exactly what you’d expect.
The brothers’ father, Craig Colquitt, a two-time NFL punting champion, wasn’t crazy about seeing his little boys getting hit. Football was too aggressive for their undeveloped bodies. So he put it off.
“My dad was actually never that dad who made us play football,” Dustin says. “He said if we got that itch he’d be there every day to help. He wanted us to write our own stories.” With a restriction from playing until high school, the boys developed their own stories within competitive club soccer, a route that made family and friends scratch their heads, and the middle school coaches urge the boys to pick up a football.
But there was no time for that. Between traveling for soccer tournaments — fueled by their mother, Anne Colquitt’s, homemade peanut butter and honey sandwiches — the family barely squeezed in time for their annual trips to the beach and the Smoky Mountains.
It was always futbol, not football.
Now, after a childhood full of headers and goals, the brothers are the two highest-paid punters in the NFL. It wasn’t all that easy though. Both Britton and Dustin traveled unconventional paths to reach their current positions. Although the setbacks were separate, they both shaped the players’ current careers and character.
When middle school concluded for Dustin, three years before Britton would begin Bearden high school, those speculating friends and family thought it was finally time for some Colquitt football. Well, not quite.
That itch didn’t come for Dustin.
There was simply no time; soccer was his world then and football didn’t fit in. Thus, while
Britton started straightaway as a freshman, Dustin remained caught up in his childhood sport, uninterested in the tight pants his father’s pastime offered. It wasn’t until Dustin’s final year that he was thrown onto the field.
“My senior year our kicker hurt his ankle really badly, and that’s when my high school football coach called and said, ‘Hey we’ve asked you before, but now, I’m friends with your dad, we go to the same church, you’re playing until he gets back.’”
And so it was decided. Dustin suited up and took the plunge, with his father taking lunch breaks off from work to help his unconventional left-handed form.
After a successful opening game, all of a sudden he was on the radar. With the connections his father had to the University of Tennessee, at the end of the school year Dustin found himself at a crossroad most athletes face before high school: soccer or football.
It was time to choose.
On one hand he had scholarship offers from schools including Brown for soccer, ready to suit him up. On the other was the emerging opportunity to redshirt as a kicker for Tennessee. Ultimately, the potential to be “the guy” in the latter option was enough to sway him to his father’s alma mater, where he would major in political science and football.
After redshirting under David Leverton, gaining more experience in punting and understanding what the program expected, he fell in love with the sport. From then on, he was all in.
He picked up an All-American award his junior year, and despite a wavering final season due to a severe groin injury, Dustin headed to the Combine. Soon enough, during draft day, he received a call that he was about to become a Kansas City Chief.
From then on, Dustin’s path went traditionally, according to plan, smoothly. And that’s where Britton’s skewed.
After following Dustin’s and his father’s footsteps into the renowned world of Tennessee punting, Britton fell into a string of actions that didn’t exactly live up to the family’s name. Following a handful of alcohol-related incidents, he faced suspension, a stripped scholarship and a sacrificed reputation.
“Everyone has a different story — his just happens to be very public. He weathered that storm, and made the most of his opportunity,” Dustin says. “I think God gave him a lot of grace in the situation. Britton made the most of it and now he’s married, he’s got three kids. He’s living in the light. I think God allows the storm to happen to some people and to pass, so they have something to talk to people in need about.”
And the storm did settle.
Once Britton sat out the first five games of his senior year, he finished his college career setting records for himself and the program. By the end of the fall his resume was decked with a personal best 71-yard punt and the second spot in the program’s punting history, the Colquitt clan locking in the rest of the top four ranks. That was enough to receive an invitation to the Combine.
Although he was not drafted, after a string of training camps and tryouts, he was able to officially put his past behind him. He signed with the Denver Broncos in December of 2009 as a free agent. He joined in the era of Kyle Orton. Since then, he has played with Peyton Manning, visited two Super Bowls and helped win one of them: Super Bowl 50 in 2015.
Despite both of them having skewed career starts, the Colquitt brothers have ended up in the same position, in the same league, playing one against the other in the same AFC West rivalry game.
Just a few short months after Dustin was announced as the highest paid NFL kicker, his younger brother topped his salary. To Dustin, Britton was “lucky” as always, but deserving as usual.
Although their salaries reign supreme in the sport, that figure couldn’t matter less to Dustin, who claims he’d continue kicking if he was only paid eight bucks an hour. To him, it’s all about the strategy, the challenge.
However in the rivalry matchups, according to mom Anne, Dustin takes on a little more mental weight than usual.
During downs when Dustin usually steps back, catching a breath, he’s counting down the yards until his brother steps onto the field. He may be on the other side, but they always want each other to succeed. To them, that’s indicated by two fingers pointing to the sky, a tradition they began in high school. They never take the credit. They give God the glory, just like mama taught them.
“When they have a really exciting, punt-out-of-your-golf-bag punt… They’re running off with their fingers pointing up, and that right there — I may have done a lot of things wrong in my life, but that tells me right there I’ve done something right,” Anne says.
Many athletes try to separate sports from spirituality, but the Colquitts don’t see a reason for such secularity. To them, their good fortune is due to God, so he deserves every minute of it.
“There are a lot of people who like to separate sports and faith, but I try not to have an area of my life that I don’t let God in to take a look at,” Dustin says. “He wants everything, not just some things. With football He’s put me in that situation for a reason, so why would I not let Him in on the daily routine and the opportunities I have? I know I’m there because He put me there.”
He put the Colquitt brotheres there, on the field where they one, two step. Toes to heaven. Then fingers. •