Ring of Famer Rick Upchurch joined First and Ten at Ten on Wednesday to discuss his Tuesday trip to UCHealth Training Center and share what he told punt returner Isaiah McKenzie.
Upchurch’s first piece of advice to McKenzie after his frustrating rookie season? Don’t dwell on it.
“Well, first and foremost, I told him the rear-view mirror of a car is small for a reason. You don’t want to look at the history that’s behind you,” Upchurch said. “That’s history and it’s gone. Now you’ve got that big windshield in front of you, man, and all of the future that’s in front of you.
“I told him, ‘If you never fall down, if you don’t make a mistake, then you don’t improve and get better. So now is the year for you to get better. You’re no longer a rookie.'”
Upchurch said he then offered these pointers to McKenzie:
“Catch as many punts during practice each and every day so that you’re comfortable catching the ball,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing that you have to do.”
Upchurch later said that he would catch 50 punts before each practice and 50 punts after the conclusion of the team’s on-field work each day to maintain his proficiency.
“And then the second thing was making good decisions. You can’t make bad decisions, catching the ball at the 5-yard line, and then all of a sudden you’re running back and forth, and you get tackled at the 4-yard line, you put the offense in a bad situation,” Upchurch continued.
“And that comes with fumbling. You’ve got to hold on to the football, because [otherwise] you put the defense in a bad situation, or you put the offense in a bad situation. So I told him the decisions that you make, it affects the team more than you can even imagine.
“And then I said, ‘Have pride in playing that position,’ because you can make the game sway any way you want when you return a punt or a kickoff back all the way.”
Upchurch also discussed the future of the return game, the outlook for rookie running back Phillip Lindsay and other topics in the interview, to which you can listen here: