Sam Koch, the Ravens' all-time leader in games played and one of the NFL's most consistent punters, announced his retirement Thursday after 16 seasons. He will join the coaching staff as a special teams consultant.
The 39-year-old Koch played in a franchise-record 256 games and was a member of Baltimore's 2012 Super Bowl-winning team. He played in 239 consecutive games before missing his first game in 2020 when he was placed on the Reserve COVID/19 list.
Averaging 45.3 yards per punt during his career, Koch made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and never averaged fewer than 43.0 yards in any season. Koch was always reluctant to draw attention to himself, but he took pride in being someone that teammates and coaches could depend on.
Sitting between General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh, Koch became emotional many times during his retirement press conference, reading from an eloquent speech that he diligently prepared. From the beginning of his career until the end, Koch was a perfectionist.
"As Ray Lewis would always put it, leave your legacy," Koch said. "I always remembered that, and I always tried to find a way that I could leave a legacy. I'm honored to say I left a legacy."
A sixth-round pick from Nebraska in 2006, Koch won the starting job as a rookie, despite not being one of the 10 punters invited to the NFL Combine that year. Meticulous and hard working, Koch developed a wide repertoire of punts that he used in different situations. One of his specialties was a low-line rugby kick that landed quickly and got plenty of roll. Koch unveiled that kick during a 2014 Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, using it to keep dangerous returner Antonio Brown in check.
"Sam has revolutionized the game of football," Special Teams Coach Randy Brown said. "He introduced the idea that punters could have different types of punts, as well as have punts designed to place the ball inside the 10-yard line and to keep the ball away from returners – who have become much more dynamic in recent years. As a whole, every punter in the NFL owes Sam Koch a debt of gratitude for being the pioneer of change on how punting is executed in this league."
In addition to his punting, Koch was a sure-handed holder for Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history who often talked about the crucial role that Koch played in his career.
"I owe much of my success over the last 10 years to Sam, and many Ravens' victories over the last 16 years are very much because of Sam's efforts," Tucker said. "He is an outstanding teammate and leader in our locker room, and like many great Ravens before him, he has been essential to defining our culture as a team. Sam changed the way everyone in the football world looks at punting, and his consistency and proficiency are unmatched throughout the history of our game."
An excellent all-round athlete, Koch completed seven of eight passes during his NFL career and always made the Ravens a threat to execute successful fake punts.
Koch's future as a player became uncertain after Baltimore drafted punter Jordan Stout in the fourth round, making him the first punter selected in 2022. The earliest punter drafted since Bryan Anger (70th overall) in 2012 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Stout led the nation in average hangtime last year (4.36 seconds) and had the highest overall grade from Pro Football Focus at 93.1.
Stout was drafted to be Baltimore's next punter, and now Koch will begin a new career as a special teams consultant for the only team he ever played for. He's already been coaching his son's high school team just up the road.
"I've never been around a player who worked as hard as Sam Koch, and I look forward to watching him pour that energy into the next chapter of his life," Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said.