2024 NFL Draft Profile: Matthew Hayball

Vanderbilt’s standout punter is graduating after an extended college career, and he’s going to get a lot of attention from NFL teams.
Matthew Hayball has punted for Vanderbilt for two years; he just signed with the New Orleans Saints. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Matthew Hayball has punted for Vanderbilt for two years; he just signed with the New Orleans Saints. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

For better or worse, punter Matthew Hayball saw a lot of action in the 2024 season. In that time, he showed why he was Vanderbilt’s best player. Although it won’t show up in his draft position, Hayball has a chance to be one of the most successful alumni of the Commodore program in the last decade. Let’s talk about why. 

Hayball originally came from the homeland of many NFL kickers: Australia Prokick. The Aussies know how to turn a former Australian rules football player into an elite punter like no one else, and Hayball was yet another product of the system. For college, Hayball crossed the ocean to join Florida Atlantic University where he would play for the next three years, majoring in finance.

At FAU, he punted 61 times for an average of 45.7 yards per punt. His improvement over three seasons was notable, as his freshman year baseline was 43.5 yards per punt. 

Context is important here. In special teams, especially punting, margins are razor thin. A good hang time for a kick is five seconds and above, an average time is four and a half seconds and a subpar time is four seconds. Measurements for hand-to-foot times follow even slimmer guidelines with the top speeds being under 1.23 seconds and the slowest being over 1.40 seconds. In the NFL, the highest punting average was 53.1 yards (Ryan Stonehouse, Titans) and the lowest was 43.0 yards (Lou Hedley, Saints). This is yet another small margin, as 10 yards separates 33 professional punters. 

Kicking averages don’t always tell a perfect story as special teams coverage, game situation, field position and line protection are all factors for a given punt, but the raw yardage averages are a good baseline to work with since a punter’s hang time and distance are their bread and butter. All of this is to say that Hayball’s yards of improvement are significant.

Hayball received All-Conference honorable mentions in 2020 and 2021 at FAU (as well as All-Academic and All-Freshman recognition in his three-year stint) before transferring to West End as a red-shirt senior. Hayball would kick for the Commodores for two years, averaging an astounding 47.6 yards per punt in his final season. This is the second-best single-season average for a Vanderbilt punter and also good for fifth in the nation in 2023. If he averaged the same in the NFL this season, he would have finished 15th of 33 eligible punters by the end of the year.

Numbers and Measurements:

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 190

40-Yard Dash: Does it matter?

Vertical: He’s got a rocket launcher attached to his leg.

This section is not really for the punters, but I might as well highlight some of Hayball’s other accolades: 

Hayball finished as Vanderbilt’s all-time leader in punting yards average (46.5); he was the 2023 SEC punter of the year; he got All-American recognition (Vanderbilt’s first All-American since 2016 and first All-American punter since 1996); he made the academic All-District team and SEC honor roll; he forced a fumble against Alabama in 2022; he has more than 13,000 career punting yards; and he was a Ray Guy Award (best punter in the nation) finalist.


As I’ve clearly established, Hayball’s punting prowess is remarkable, and it’s not just his distance. His hang time is also exemplary, as he shows off in this X video with seven consecutive punts of five-plus seconds.

However, perhaps the biggest upsides of Hayball are two things I haven’t even mentioned yet: the foot he kicks with and his maturity. The Australian is a lefty — quite uncommon for kickers — and he’s been around the block plenty of times after six years of college (redshirt year and a COVID-19 exemption year).

Indeed, the maturity should speak for itself, as too often we see an unprepared young prospect with promise unravel under professional pressure, but Hayball has experience under his belt as the 27-year-old decided to maximize his degrees in college.

The lefty edge is also well-documented in the NFL and was often utilized by legendary coaching innovator Bill Belichick. The majority of punters are right-footed (only four lefty punters saw action in the 2023 NFL season), so the majority of punt returners watch a righty’s spin and ball movement in practice. To throw a wrench in their process come game day, coaches love having a lefty punter. This undoubtedly boosts Hayball’s stock. 

Areas for Improvement

Of course, Hayball will need to work on his craft. Everything happens one step faster in the NFL, so his hand-to-foot time will need to improve. However, he can’t sacrifice his hang time and power capabilities in the process. This refinement is more than possible though, considering Hayball has already shown a remarkable capacity for development. Look no further than the disparity between his freshman and senior year punting averages for evidence. He went from 43.5 to 47.6 yards. A 4.1 yard gain is massive and moves him from a scrub to a top-half NFL punter.

With more time on his hands as a professional, I expect Hayball to make even larger leaps moving forward.

NFL Comparison

Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs

Colquitt played his college ball three hours away from Hayball in Knoxville. The former Volunteer was also first-team All-SEC and an All-American like Hayball, and the cherry on top is that both are lefties. 

Colquitt was drafted at the end of the third round of the 2005 NFL draft and played for the Chiefs for 14 years before hopping around rosters for the next two seasons prior to his retirement in 2021. Though I don’t see Hayball being drafted as high as the third round, the Vanderbilt man can hope to replicate the career success that Colquitt had — a decade and a half in the league, a pair of pro bowls and a super bowl.

Draft Prediction 

Pick No. 245 (Round 7), Green Bay Packers

Let’s be clear, punters get no love in the draft and they’re a luxury pick if anything. If he were in a skill position, Hayball would be a bonafide first-round selection, but since he’s a special teamer, he’ll go late or not at all. Don’t worry though, Commodore faithful, he’ll end up on a roster one way or another.

Hayball is likely the second or third-best punter in this class behind Tory Taylor and (potentially) Ryan Rehkow. His lefty status should boost him above Rehkow. Either way, teams with a large number of picks and in need of complementary pieces should be intrigued. The Packers, with a strong base of talent already in the organization and a league-high 11 draft picks, can afford to spend a late round selection on a punter. This is a position of need for the Cheeseheads, as their current punter, Daniel Whelan, finished 27th in the league in average yards per punt last season.

Also be on the lookout for the Buffalo Bills, who hold fewer picks than the Packers with just six selections, but could use a punter after finishing 28th in yards per punt. The team has also shown a willingness to draft punters after picking Matt Araiza (who was cut due to off-the-field issues) in the sixth round of the 2022 draft.

Vanderbilt fans should remember the name Hayball. He might not be the flashiest Commodore on the gridiron, but he’ll likely be the most impactful.

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About the Contributors
Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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