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Shy Guy Gets His Kicks in Crowds : Titan Punter Sirois Avoids--and Excels in--the Spotlight

Times Staff Writer

For a guy who loathes public appearances, Jim Sirois does not have an ideal job.

This is a fellow who would as soon gargle glass as stand in front of a microphone, who has withdrawn from every public-speaking class he has ever had, and whose most frequent comment to reporters is, “You’re not writing that down, are you?”

But as the punter for Cal State Fullerton, a team with its share of troubles on offense, Sirois is called on for frequent and very public appearances. In 4 games this season, he already has punted 28 times--and that number might be higher if not for Fullerton’s 12 turnovers.

Sirois has responded with the same steady performance he has given the Titans for the past 3 seasons, and is averaging 41.1 yards. His longest punt this season is 54 yards.

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“He’s not a punter who’s going to give you 50 or 60 yards every time, but he’s Mr. Consistency,” said Dale Bunn, who coaches Sirois.

This season, that’s exactly what Fullerton needs.

The Titans, who have found themselves stuck in their own territory plenty of times already, take comfort in knowing Sirois is there to bail them out.

“Everybody, the offense and the defense, appreciates him,” quarterback Dan Speltz said. “He can really turn the game around.”

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Sirois’ punting has helped prevent the defense from starting its work in horrendous field position, something that sometimes eventually helps the offense.

“You can play the field-position game like that,” Speltz said. “We have confidence that our defense can hold them, and you can get a good turnaround on the (opponent’s) punt and get good field position.”

Coach Gene Murphy has been impressed by what he calls Sirois’ unselfish punting--trying to drop the ball between the 15 and the 5 rather than booting it into the end zone, which would boost his average but make the defense start at the 20.

“When I’m kicking inside the 50, I try not to kick as hard,” Sirois said. “I’d like it to bounce at the 10.”

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Sirois’ career average is above 40 yards a punt, and he already had set school records for punts (192) and yardage (7,613) before this season.

But of all his skills, Sirois’ ability to avoid disasters may be the most valuable to the Titans.

Already this season, he has had to punt from the end zone.

“When you’re five yards deep in the end zone and punting, you know if anything goes wrong, you bobble it or anything, you’ve still got to get it off,” Sirois said. “I don’t even have a chance to know if anybody’s rushing me. You know they’re trying to block it. You just have to get it off.”

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There is also the matter of handling bad snaps. The best thing about Sirois--after his foot--might be his hands.

The Fullerton coaches don’t call him “our shortstop” for nothing.

Sirois has chased down snaps that have gone every which way, and has had only one kick blocked in his career.

But it hasn’t been all consistency and damage-control. There have been a few spectacular plays, although Sirois downplays them, in typical self-effacing style.

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His 72-yard punt against New Mexico State in 1985 is the second longest in Fullerton history.

“It was all right,” Sirois said. “It just went over (the receiver’s) head and rolled.”

He is versatile enough to pass the ball on one of Fullerton’s fake-punt plays, and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass in 1986.

“If you saw the passes, you wouldn’t think I have much of an arm,” Sirois said. “It makes me nervous to pass. I just throw it in the vicinity. They’ll catch it.”

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And if the snap is in the vicinity, Sirois will punt it.


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