The Brambletts have always been a punting family.
Mike Bramblett, the patriarch and father of Jay, the current Notre Dame punter, played college baseball at Alabama-Birmingham but could have walked on as a punter at multiple Division 1 schools.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” the elder Bramblett said in a phone interview. “Back in those days you just did what you did. i enjoyed it. It was peaceful for me.”
There was a bag of 12-15 footballs in the basement that called out to Mike Bramblett almost every day during his youth in Pelham, Ala.
“I would just go up to the school or out in a field and punt them from one end to the other,” he said. “Then I’d go pick them up and punt them all the way back.”
As time passed and three Bramblett sons came along — Bradley, Geoffrey and Jay — they watched as their father showed them the fundamentals of punting. Soon, the boys had a sack of footballs all their own in the basement.
Trips to the local school or park ensued. Geoffrey, who went on to pitch for the University of Alabama and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, might still be the best punter of all the Brambletts, his father said.
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“We never really made them do that or encouraged them to do that, but they did the same exact thing,” Mike Bramblett said. “That was kind of rewarding to sit back and see them want to work like that.”
During Mike Bramblett’s senior year at Pelham High, his long snapper was an outgoing sophomore with a strange nickname: Dabo Swinney. Yes, the future Clemson football coach.
“Crazy, crazy stuff,” said Mike Bramblett, now the football and baseball coach at Brookwood (Ala.) High School.
As fate would have it, Notre Dame and Clemson met twice last fall, once in a 47-40 double-overtime epic upset in South Bend, Ind., and again in the ACC Championship Game, a 34-10 romp for the Tigers.
“I didn’t get to see him in person, but we texted a lot, before and after both games,” Bramblett said of Swinney.
Before the rematch in Charlotte, N.C., Jay Bramblett asked his father if he might be able to arrange a quick meeting with the Clemson coach.
“So I texted Dabo,” Mike Bramblett said. “He said, ‘Man, I’ll find him.’ “
During pregame warmups, the Brambletts looked down from the stands and saw Brian Polian, Notre Dame’s special teams coordinator, leading his punter over to the Clemson coach. A 10-minute conversation ensued between the Fighting Irish punter and his father’s high-energy long snapper from back in his Pelham High days.
“They shared some stories,” Mike Bramblett said. “Dabo had his state trooper take a picture of them. You’re 30 to 45 minutes before a championship game, and here’s the head coach at Clemson texting me a picture of him and my son. That was pretty cool.”
Clemson never recruited Jay Bramblett out of Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest High, the same school that produced Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. The Tigers signed a scholarship punter in the 2018 recruiting class, so there wasn’t a spot.
Instead, Jay Bramblett ended up committing to Notre Dame in May of 2018. A two-year starter already, he has become a versatile piece for the Irish, where his instincts have paid dividends on fake punts and as a holder for placements.
He also had the tackle of the year in the first Clemson game, taking down star running back Travis Etienne in a one-on-one confrontation along the sideline just before halftime. Swinney had a good view of that one, another punting Bramblett crossing his radar after all those years.
Crazy, crazy stuff, indeed.