Todd Sauerbrun stirred controversy on and off the field during his colorful thirteen-year NFL career.
He feuded with Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica when he played for the Carolina Panthers.
As a member of the Denver Broncos, Sauerbrun dared legendary Chicago Bears kick and punt return specialist Devin Hester to beat them.
Hester obliged with an 88-yard punt and 75-yard kick return for touchdowns. Worse, Sauerbrun looked silly trying to tackle Hester both times.
Nonetheless, Todd Sauerbrun was a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl punter who did great things during his pro football career.
Todd Scott Sauerbrun was born to parents Walter and Suzanne in Setauket, NY on January 4, 1973.
Walter Sauerbrun suited up for the Chicago White Sox’s farm system.
His son Scott told The Denver Post’s Mike Klis in 2007 that he started playing soccer when he was ten or eleven years old.
Sauerbrun played travel soccer during his formative years. His mother Suzanne drove him around the New York and Connecticut regions when he played for the Long Island soccer team.
Sauerbrun also traveled to other countries as a young soccer player.
Did You Know?
Ward Melville High School alum Todd Sauerbrun led the NFL in Punt Yardage & Punt Average for 2️⃣ consecutive years- 2001 & '02. He was All-Pro those seasons for the @Panthers. #DidYouKnow #NYmade #NYfootball pic.twitter.com/TgOSYblIes
— NY MADE FOOTBALL (@NYMadeFootball) November 2, 2021
He also was a third baseman and shortstop who played some baseball when he was growing up in the Long Island area. He told Klis he followed the New York Yankees as a kid.
However, the on-again, off-again nature of playing baseball didn’t sit well with Sauerbrun.
“It wasn’t action-packed enough,” Sauerbrun told The Denver Post. “As soon as I’d get up to bat, I knew as soon as I was done I’d have to wait an hour to bat again. I hated that part.”
Todd Sauerbrun attended Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, NY.
He played wide receiver and kick returner for the Ward Melville Patriots.
Sauerbrun went on to play kicker for the West Virginia Mountaineers in the collegiate ranks.
A key position switch would spell the difference for Sauerbrun’s pro football aspirations several years later.
College Days With The West Virginia Mountaineers
Todd Sauerbrun attended West Virginia University from 1991 to 1994.
He started out as a kicker for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Sauerbrun and future Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt were a formidable duo for Mountaineers head football coach Don Nehlen.
Both men became Pro Bowlers when they ventured into the National Football League.
However, they played out of their natural positions when they were still in the collegiate ranks: Sauerbrun was a kicker and Vanderjagt was a punter for the Mountaineers.
Consequently, neither player lived up to lofty expectations.
However, they made a crucial position switch during Sauerbrun’s senior campaign in 1994 that spelled the difference for their future pro football careers.
“He didn’t do very well punting and I wasn’t doing very well kicking,” Sauerbrun told Klis in 2007. “So we switched in camp my senior year.”
The rest, as they say, was history.
Sauerbrun responded in spectacular fashion as a senior in the 1994 NCAA season.
He punted an amazing 541 yards in the season opener against the Nebraska Cornhuskers that year.
Sauerbrun also set a new school record with an incredible 90-yard punt against the Cornhuskers.
Sauerbrun proved it wasn’t a fluke when he punted for 475 yards against the Pitt Panthers and 437 yards against the Virginia Tech Hokies in 1994.
It was an amazing way to cap off his four-year stint at West Virginia.
Todd Sauerbrun was arguably the best punter the Mountaineers program had ever produced.
He was a consensus All-American and three-time First-Team All-Big East selection who averaged 46 yards per punt during his four-year college football career.
According to the Mountaineers’ official athletics website, Sauerbrun regularly called the press box after games so he’d know his punting average.
The Mountaineers averaged seven wins per season and appeared in two bowl games with Sauerbrun on their roster from 1991 to 1994.
Todd Sauerbrun experienced an up-and-down thirteen-year pro football career marred by several legal issues off the gridiron.
Pro Football Career
The Chicago Bears made Todd Sauerbrun the 56th overall selection of the 1995 NFL Draft.
His pro football career didn’t get off to a very good start in the Windy City.
Sauerbrun flaunted his vanity plates (“Hang Time”) and wore earrings in his first training camp.
He then shanked a punt in the Bears’ second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
Things spiraled downward from there.
It got so bad for Sauerbrun that he finished 29th among the league’s 30 punters in gross average punt yards (37.8).
Although the Bears won nine games, they missed the postseason for the third time in four years.
A distraught Sauerbrun even thought about quitting football during his disastrous rookie campaign in Chicago.
“I wanted to quit last year, I really did,” Sauerbrun told the Chicago Tribune’s Melissa Isaacson in the summer of 1996. “It was totally not fun. I didn’t enjoy it and it was hard on me.”
Sauerbrun fought through his struggles and responded with solid special teams play for the Bears from 1996 to 1998.
— Ringmaster Sal (@SalCircus) July 11, 2017
Case in point: Sauerbrun averaged 47.4 yards on seven punt attempts in a 10-3 loss to the then-Washington Redskins on September 9, 1996.
On the other hand, Redskins punter Matt Turk averaged 42.5 punts on eight punt attempts.
Alas, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player landed on his leg after a punt attempt in Week 3 of the 1998 NFL season.
Sauerbrun tore his ACL and had to sit out the remainder of the season.
Nonetheless, he received valuable consolation three months after his season-ending injury.
The Bears made Todd Sauerbrun the second-highest paid punter in the 1999 NFL season.
Sauerbrun’s base salary, signing bonus, and various incentives added up to a total of $835,000.
Only the Tennessee Titans’ Craig Hentrich, the first million-dollar punter in NFL history, made more than Sauerbrun.
Chicago averaged just five wins per season from 1996 to 1998. The Bears extended their postseason drought to four years.
Their ineptitude prompted team brass to fire head coach Dave Wannstedt and replace him with former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.
Todd Sauerbrun developed a simmering feud with Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica when he started playing for the Carolina Panthers in 2001.
Sauerbrun took exception to how Gramatica celebrated his four field goals in the Bucs’ 12-9 triumph over the Panthers in October 2001.
Gramatica’s teammates had to restrain him from going after Sauerbrun in Tampa Bay’s 23-10 win over Carolina a month later.
Gramatica told The Associated Press (via ESPN) that he had no respect for Sauerbrun. He also claimed Sauerbrun’s peers didn’t like him, either.
For Todd Sauerbrun, the feeling toward Martin Gramatica was mutual.
Gramatica’s youngest brother taunted Sauerbrun outside of the Panthers locker room after the game.
Sauerbrun admitted he wasn’t the most mild-mannered individual. He knew things could’ve escalated had Gramatica’s brother continued his tirade.
“That kid is as big of an idiot as his brother, and I’m sure his older brother is, too,” Sauerbrun told The Associated Press. “It goes right down the line.”
Sauerbrun took a shot at Bill Gramatica, a kicker for the Arizona Cardinals at the time.
10 days until Carolina Panthers football.
Former punter Todd Sauerbrun.
Played four seasons from 2001-2004. Played in all 64 games. Made 1st team All Pro in 2001 & 2002. Made Pro Bowl from 2001-2003. Had 350 punts for 15938 yards 73 yards longest6 blocked 45.5 yards per punt. pic.twitter.com/ptCtdSBoAV
— The 4 Man Rush (@4ourmanrush) August 29, 2019
Sauerbrun led the NFC in punting from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
He made history as the only player since the 1970 merger to lead a conference in gross punting average for three straight seasons.
Little wonder Sauerbrun earned three consecutive All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections from 2001 to 2003.
Sauerbrun also won Pro Football Weekly’s Golden Toe Award in 2001.
Sauerbrun did something in the 2004 NFL season he had never done before in a pro football game: kick a field goal.
It wasn’t just any field goal: it was a score that gave the Panthers a lead they’d never relinquish.
Sauerbrun kicked a 34-yard field goal with 4:29 left in Carolina’s stirring 37-27 come-from-behind victory over the stunned San Francisco 49ers on November 15, 2004.
He added four PATs for good measure.
Sauerbrun kicked in place of the injured John Kasay, who hurt his calf muscle in the third quarter and didn’t return to the game.
Panthers wide receiver Ricky Proehl took over Sauerbrun’s regular duties at holder.
It was also an impressive feat considering Sauerbrun never considered taking a practice kick before he nailed the 34-yarder.
He also told SFGate.com’s Janny Hu that bad things usually happen when he overthinks and lets nerves get the better of him.
His approach was simple: don’t think about it; just go out there and do it.
Panthers head coach John Fox admitted to Hu that he was nervous about putting Sauerbrun’s kicking foot to the test in the fourth quarter.
Sauerbrun’s no-nonsense approach eventually put Fox and his Panthers teammates at ease.
The Panthers were an up-and-down franchise during Todd Sauerbraun’s tenure at Carolina from 2001 to 2004.
They averaged six wins per season during that stretch. They won eleven games in 2003 but lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, 32-29.
Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining sealed New England’s second Super Bowl title.
Despite Sauerbrun’s exemplary play on the gridiron, he stirred controversy off it.
A “60 Minutes Wednesday” investigation revealed Sauerbrun and Panthers offensive linemen Jeff Mitchell and Todd Steussie had steroid prescriptions filled by a Columbia, SC-based physician named Dr. James Shortt.
The report identified the injectable steroid as Stanozolol, per The Washington Post’s Mark Maske.
The investigation identified the three Panthers players two weeks before Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Sauerbrun ran afoul of the law again when he was arrested for driving under the influence some ten months later.
Todd Sauerbrun’s days in Carolina were numbered.
The Panthers traded him to the Denver Broncos for punter Jason Baker and a seventh-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft.
On this date in 2005, the Broncos traded for punter Todd Sauerbrun, sending punter Jason Baker and a 7th-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Sauerbrun.
Sauerbrun ranked 8th in the NFL in punting in 2005. But let's face it, that's not what he's remembered for. pic.twitter.com/9lrMn0IxPy
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 19, 2021
Sauerbrun left Carolina as the Panthers’ franchise record holder in ten statistical categories, including:
- Punts in a season (104 in 2002)
- Punts in a game (11 in 2002 against the Chicago Bears)
- Punts in a playoff game (seven against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII)
- Punt yardage in a season: (4,735 in 2002)
- Punt yardage in a playoff season (910 in 2003)
Sauerbrun picked up where he left off and averaged 43.8 yards per punt for the Broncos in the 2005 NFL season.
Denver won thirteen games in Sauerbrun’s first season in the Mile High City.
Regrettably, the Broncos lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 34-17.
Things took a turn for the worse for Sauerbrun in his second year with Denver.
The league suspended him for the first month of the 2006 NFL season after he tested positive for ephedra.
An individual close to Sauerbrun told ESPN he was positive for the banned substance.
Sauerbrun’s suspension cost him $328,235 of his $1.395 million base salary for the 2006 NFL season.
The NFL banned the supplement ephedra after Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer died during training camp in 2001. Ephedra increases an individual’s heart rate and constricts blood vessels.
After Sauerbrun served his one-month suspension, he and the Broncos eventually parted ways.
The New England Patriots signed him to a one-year contract on December 22, 2006.
Sauerbrun re-signed with the Broncos for a second tour of duty in the Mile High City in the spring of 2007.
He told The Denver Post’s Bill Williamson that the Broncos were his favorite stop in his thirteen-year NFL career.
Sauerbrun looked forward to a reunion with two men he admired: Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan and special teams coach Scott O’Brien.
O’Brien helped develop Sauerbrun into an All-Pro and Pro Bowler during their time together in Carolina from 2001 to 2004.
Toward the end of Sauerbrun’s NFL career, he made the mistake of firing up the great Devin Hester.
The two exchanged words through the media and on the gridiron before a game between the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears in the 2007 NFL season.
Sauerbrun made another mistake: he kicked and punted the ball to Hester, one of the best kick and punt return specialists in the history of pro football.
Hester promptly scored on an 88-yard kick return and a 75-yard punt return courtesy of Sauerbrun.
Sauerbrun tried to tackle Hester on both attempts but failed miserably.
This was one of *two* games where Devin Hester had multiple kick returns for TDs in the same game. 🐐
Todd Sauerbrun said they were going to “challenge” Hester…he did, and he returned both a kickoff and a punt for a TD.
Sauerbrun was cut 3 weeks later. pic.twitter.com/8Hw7vFQKIQ
— Will Applebee (@NOTSCWill) November 25, 2020
Unfortunately, Sauerbrun’s ordeals off the gridiron weren’t quite over.
He denied assaulting a cab driver in Englewood, CO in December 2007. Witnesses claimed Sauerbrun struck the cabbie after he kicked him out of his taxi.
Sauerbrun told The Associated Press (via The Denver Post) that he tried to act responsibly by taking a taxi since he had a few drinks after dinner and didn’t bring his driver’s license.
Authorities gave Sauerbrun a citation for simple assault. They didn’t arrest him.
Nonetheless, Sauerbrun was anxious about the potential media onslaught and ensuing backlash from the fans.
“But you know, everything that’s been written – it’s hurtful,” Sauerbrun told The Associated Press. “It really is.”
The Broncos released Sauerbrun a week before Christmas following the altercation with the cabbie.
Sauerbruaun’s disposition toward the Broncos organization changed drastically over the turn of events.
He felt they didn’t treat him fairly after Shanahan defended troubled running back Travis Henry during the 2007 NFL season.
The timing of Sauerbraun’s second release from the Broncos didn’t help matters, either: they waived him just ten days after his infamous feud with the taxi driver.
“I don’t think they did me right,” he told The Associated Press (via ESPN) in the spring of 2008.
For his part, Shanahan told The Associated Press’ Pat Graham (via VailDaily.com) that Sauerbrun’s belligerent behavior toward police officers was the main reason why the Broncos released him.
Denver signed Paul Ernster to take Sauerbrun’s roster spot shortly afterward.
Todd Sauerbrun had officially played his final NFL down following his release from Denver.
He pleaded guilty for disturbing the peace and received a sentence of twenty-four hours of community service for the altercation with the cabbie.
He finished his thirteen-year career in the National Football League with 39,208 punting yards and 889 punts for an average of 44.1 yards per punt attempt.
After a two-year hiatus, Sauerbrun signed with the United Football League’s Florida Tuskers on September 8, 2009.
Todd Sauerbrun had a simple offseason regimen during his NFL career: he worked out, played racquetball, and spent time with his daughter Brooke, per The Denver Post.
Given a choice between making a 70-yard punt or a hard-nosed tackle on the punt returner, Todd Sauerbrun chose the former.
He reiterated to Klis that punters don’t get paid for making tackles. If he had to tackle a punt returner, he felt he didn’t punt well in the first place.
Sauerbrun told Klis that he played against some of the best racquetball players in the world. He claimed the best global racquetball tournaments are in Chicago, IL.
While Sauerbrun is a great racquetball player, he admitted to The Denver Post he was not on the same level as his professional counterparts.
Sauerbrun singled out his mother Suzanne and Carolina Panthers special teams coach Scott O’Brien as the most influential people in his life.
“He polished me in Carolina,” Sauerbrun spoke of O’Brien to The Denver Post. “I was nothing with the Bears.”
Todd Sauerbrun currently lives in the Chicago, IL area.
Sauerbrun has a 25-year-old daughter named Brooke. He told Klis in 2007 that she was fond of animals as a child. Her ambition back then was to become a veterinarian.
Saurebrun’s legal troubles continued several years after he hung up his cleats.
Police arrested Sauerbrun in the spring of 2009 for missing a court hearing stemming from an impaired driving incident a year earlier.