Moving the Chains with . . . EIU punter Logen Neidhardt

Logen Neidhardt transferred to Eastern Illinois from Division II Ohio Dominican University and impacted the Panthers’ special teams immediately. (photo courtesy Sandy King, EIU Athletics)

Logen Neidhardt isn’t your typical Division I collegiate punter. He didn’t attend regular punting camps growing up. He didn’t spend endless hours practicing the craft in which he would make his collegiate mark.

“I didn’t even know a lot about punting back in high school,” Neidhardt said. “I was one of the guys who had a stronger leg, so it was just kick it and get it down the field and go play defense. That’s how it was for me.”

He did get invited to one camp at Youngstown State.

“But, I’ve had some injuries in the past and some surgeries. When (Division II) Ohio Dominican approached me (about playing there), it was originally for defensive end and punting,” Neidhardt said. “I got switched to punting because we didn’t have any specialists.

“I took a walk-on at Ohio Dominican to punt. I wasn’t supposed to be the guy (who won the starting job) and then won the job my freshman year. My roommate Jed Quackenbush, who still kicks there, actually taught me how to punt. I never went to anything (such as specialty training), and all my credit goes to him. He took so much time and taught me all the fundamentals. I really learned how to punt going into my sophomore year. It’s pretty crazy.”

Get to know Eastern Illinois punter Logen Neidhardt in our Prairie State Pigskin Moving the Chains Q&A.

Senior

Hometown: Hicksville, Ohio

High School: Hicksville

You were at Ohio Dominican University for four years. How was the decision to leave there made?

Really it was because of Covid and I knew I was going to be graduating. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do there (academically) once I got my undergraduate degree. That was big for me because I was thinking career-wise down the road. I’d like to go into cardiac rehab and there’s no exercise physiology program at Ohio Dominican.

I had a talk with my parents about what would be the best decision for me and that it would be best for me to find another school. It was extremely hard (to make that decision). Studying four years there with all those guys, all those relationships and the brotherhood I created and gained there made it tough. Ultimately it was a very hard decision, but I tried to look outside of just football and I needed another school educationally that would support what I wanted to do.

Why do you choose Eastern Illinois?

I heard from (EIU assistant) Coach (Chris) Bowers first, then Coach (Neal) Renna, Coach (Cliff) Odom, Coach (Adam) Cushing. Great guys, very down to earth. I really liked the connection that I was building with them while I was home because I couldn’t really come here (to Eastern) because of the whole NCAA restrictions (during Covid). We talked about the culture and how that had changed. Guys want to be here and that’s what I was really liking. I wanted to be part of that culture.

I liked the school, the exercise phys program with cardiac rehab specialty built into it. I liked that they had that. I was able to come on an academic visit. I took an undergrad tour with my mom to see what the campus looked like. I like the campus and I liked the location. I loved the staff and it was a good fit. It was where I wanted to go and where I wanted to finish out football.

How did the facilities compare between the two schools?

A lot different. Better facilities, definitely better facilities. But, it’s not all about that for me. I’ve been able to grow a lot more here with the extra facilities. It’s been very beneficial.

The EIU single-season punting record is 44.6 yards per kick by Kevin Cook in 2007. You’re averaging 44.3 right now. While that may not be foremost on your mind, do you have any thoughts about possibly rewriting the record book?

It’s not really on my mind, but it is kind of cool to think about a little bit, but at the end of the day for me it’s what am I doing and what am I going to get better on as in tomorrow, the next practice. Being able to play my best and focusing on my next game and what I have to do to put my team in the best situation that there is. I know my job and I’ve got 10 guys in front of me that are doing their jobs and I trust all of them to make my job easier.

(As far as the record goes), if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Looking back on your prep playing career, you had 501 tackles. What positions did you play in high school?

(Chuckles) I went to a Division 7 high school in Ohio, which is the smallest. I played linebacker for four years at the varsity level. I played offensive line a couple years. I played tight end, some fullback. I was hitting a lot of people back in the day.

What is the first thing you check on game day upon arriving at a stadium?

I go out on the field and I look at what the weather is like, look at the wind a little bit. I really worry about that more once I get in the warm-up, but being from a smaller school for the last four years another thing I like to do is just take everything in. Playing in bigger stadiums with more people, that’s one thing I like to take in.

Week two of this season we played at South Carolina. The first thing I did was walk out there and just took everything in before the game started. I realized how thankful I am and how blessed I am. That’s the first thing I like to do when I go out to the field. After that, it’s just get my mind ready for the game.

Has your family been able to see you play in person or have they had to rely on the ESPN+ streams?

They’ve been at every game, that’s why I’ve been very lucky. This weekend they’re not going because my youngest sister has homecoming, which is what they should do, making it about her. I’ve been very lucky that my parents and grandparents have come to games. And my grandparents back home who can’t come to games, they rely on ESPN+. My mom and dad have been at every game and it makes me extremely thankful and blessed to have those two in my life.

How much ribbing do you take about your hair?

Actually not a whole lot. I get more compliments than you think. I have two pairs of cleats, I typically just wear one for games. The other ones are some old retro-looking ones that I get compliments (combined) with the long hair.

People call me ‘Thor’ all the time. I’m used to it. If I’m getting negative comments it’s typically from my mom if we’re going to be honest.

The EIU specialists have their own Twitter account. There are some pretty funny tweets on there, especially the photo of Coach Odom. How much do you have to do with that?

I like it; it’s just something that is a little funny. It’s cool, it’s a little different. I actually have nothing to do with it (as far as tweeting), and that’s fine with me because that’s just one less thing I have to worry about.

Eastern debuted a new black uniform in this season’s home opener and now has three different uniforms. Do you have a favorite?

We’ve really only worn all-white because of all the away games so far. I really did like the black because it was something different. I thought it brought the guys a little bit of energy. I do like the black pants and the white jerseys. I’m excited to see what we wear with the blue.

Now that October is almost here, it’s time to think about Halloween. What was your favorite candy to get on Halloween as a kid?

Probably Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Anything that had peanut butter in it, I was pretty happy with.

If you had to wear a Halloween costume every day for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I would go with something that would fit me. I feel like a little bit of a country guy. I like flannels; I’ve got a beard. I feel like a lumberjack would fit me well with the flannel and beard and wearing a beanie and jeans. Seems like that would be a good look for me.

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