While most punters are not known for much other than being the guy the fans don't want to see trot onto the field, Chris Kluwe has become known for much more in his career.
The outspoken, socially active punter has become known as a player who is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs with regard to civil rights. Mostly with regard to same-sex marriage but it expands much farther than that.
One such stance he took was the fight to get Ray Guy into the Hall of Fame. He took up the cause last December in a game against the Chicago Bears in which he covered the Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary patch on his jersey with a post-it message that read "Vote Ray Guy". If more players made statements like that, perhaps the injustice of having no punters in the Hall of Fame would change.
Kluwe is a California kid, not surprisingly. His family moved to California when he was one years old. He grew up in Southern Cal and went to UCLA. Now that he has signed with the Raiders, he gets to return to his home state with the hopes of finishing his career here.
"I was actually hoping to do the whole ‘spend your entire career with one team' because I think that's pretty cool to get that kind of legacy almost," Kluwe said of his time in Minnesota. "But at the same time that's really hard to do in the modern NFL, that really doesn't happen that much anymore. So, yeah, the situation coming up was just amazing for me because now I'm a lot closer to my family, my parents will be able to come out and see quite a few more games and just being in the state, it's really cool."
It is interesting he is coming back to California at the very time the Supreme Court is set to rule on the controversial Prop 8 which bans same sex marriage in the state. It is a decision of which he has great interest. But for now, he has a greater focus and that's on his football career.
"My first plans are to make the team," said Kluwe. "That's gonna be the overriding influence right now. I don't really anticipate a whole lot necessary [for me to do with regard to Prop 8] because it's one of those things that the Supreme Court should look at it and realize that there are established precedence in order to rule the right way on this case. So, I'm hopeful that once June rolls around, the Supreme Court will have made the right decision."
The idea of gays in sports is a hot topic at the moment as well with Jason Collins becoming the first active professional athlete in the U.S. to come out as being gay. An idea which was previously not discussed or tolerated is now thrust into the limelight.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Kluwe said of Jason Collins' decision to come out. "Just the fact that it seems to be something that as younger generations grow up, they really don't see what the fuss is about. That gives me hope for the future of our society because it really is a matter of people being free to live their own lives without feeling like they're being oppressed by other people, which I think is the very core of this civilization."
Kluwe's views were seen as shocking and controversial just a few years ago and it has led many to believe the distraction he caused was why the Vikings released him despite coming off two of his best seasons in the NFL.
The Raiders obviously do not agree Kluwe would present any kind of issues. They have been focused on stocking this team with high-character, team oriented players so adding Kluwe to the roster should be all the proof needed that GM Reggie McKenzie believes in his character.
"Well, hopefully I fit in pretty well," siad Kluwe. "I've never been arrested, I've never done anything detrimental to the team, or said anything bad about players or coaches and for me I just want to come out and help the Raiders win in any way I can. That's what my job here is to do is to help the team win games."
He will have every opportunity to win the punter job for the Raiders. His competition will be Marquette King who the team brought back from last year's camp due to his big leg and potential. And with the Raiders all Kluwe needs do is be a good player on the field and a solid citizen and teammate off of it - So, basically just be himself.