DALLAS — In a crowded conference room packed with reporters and Packers players Wednesday at the Omni Mandalay hotel, special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum reflected on P Tim Masthay's journey in the past year.
"I think he's come a long way," Slocum said.
No one would debate that. About six months ago, Masthay didn't know if he would ever get a chance to punt in a regular-season game.
After signing with the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2009, he was cut before training camp came to an end. Masthay went back to his alma mater and worked as a tutor 20 hours a week for student-athletes who were studying finance and economics at the school. His wife worked full time at a bank so they could get by.
"It was an interesting time," he said. "It hit me that this was the first time in my life that I wasn't involved in organized sports. That was tough to swallow because sports have always been a big part of my life."
Masthay, who turns 24 in March, was considering joining the Peace Corps, but five months after the Colts cut him, the Packers called and he was signed to a reserve/future contract.
He had to beat out undrafted rookie Chris Bryan, a 28-year-old veteran of Australian Rules Football, for the punting job this preseason.
"He came in, went through an intense competition for the job, won it and that was just the beginning," Slocum said. "Then he had to learn how to be an NFL punter."
Masthay struggled initially, but showed improvement in the second half of the season, starting with a brilliant performance that keyed a 9-0 victory over the Jets in Week Eight. He punted eight times for a 44-yard gross average and a 41.5-yard net average, dropping five of his punts inside the 20 and limiting the Jets to zero return yards.
He earned NFC Special-Teams Player of the Week for that effort, which head coach Mike McCarthy said was one of the best punting performances he had ever seen.
Masthay will head into the Super Bowl on the heels of another highly impressive effort. In the NFC championship game, he punted eight times for 334 yards, pinning the Bears inside their 20-yard line five times.
Pro Bowl PR Devin Hester, who returned one of Masthay's punts for a touchdown in Week Three, was held to three returns for 16 yards in the conference title tilt.
"Going through the whole offseason and then playing pretty well in the preseason and then kind of the production being a little uneven there at the beginning of the season and having some frustrations and battling back and having a solid second half of the season and finishing strong through the playoffs," Masthay said, recounting his whirlwind year. "Leading up to this point, it's been a real special ride."