SBCC football player rises to the top, makes play of preseason

Sarah Maninger, Sports Editor

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Five years ago, Mitch Wishnowsky punted for over 2,500 yards in a Vaqueros uniform; now he’s playing alongside 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the NFL. 

On April 27, Wishnowsky was picked in the fourth round of the 2019 draft by the San Francisco 49ers

Born in Australia, Wishnowsky took an unconventional path to the NFL. He had to give up his first sport, Australian football, as a young adult due to injury but switched to punting before moving to the states. 

Tim Gleeson, a friend of Wishnowsky, had played for Head Coach Craig Moropoulos the year prior to Mitch’s arrival and told him Santa Barbara was the best place to go. 

“It was nice to sort of start off at a junior college,” Wishnowsky said. 

By going to City College, he had one year to learn the game and “not just be thrown into the deep end.” 

Moropoulos, who is in his 13th year as the leader of the squad, said he saw Wishnowsky grow into his abilities. 

“He brought some skills that we’re not used to,” said Moropoulos, referring to Wishnowsky’s use of the rugby-style punt. This punting style involves kicking on the run to give one’s teammates more time to get down the field and tackle the returner. 

“That was unique to us and we tried to utilize that,” he said. 

After playing for City College, Wishnowsky took a year off from football in 2015 before returning to it in 2016. He played his sophomore through senior seasons for the University of Utah. 

There, he won the Ray Guy Award for being the top punter in the nation. 

Coach Moropoulos said he knew what Wishnowsky was capable of. 

“He wanted to play at the highest level and nothing was going to stop him,” he said. 

You can’t get much higher than the NFL, but getting there and getting noticed is no easy task. Luckily the 49ers saw the same thing in Mitch the coaching staff at City College and Utah did; drive and determination. 

“You don’t use a fourth-round draft pick on a punter or a kicker if you don’t think he’s going to make a difference in your club,” Moropoulos said. 

With that pick, the 49ers made Wishnowsky the highest-drafted punter since Bryan Anger was drafted in 2012.

Wishnowsky was spending time in Santa Barbara when he was drafted and spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting on May 9 before leaving for camp. 

“I saw him that morning after he got drafted. I think he was emotional because he was realizing a dream,” Moropoulos said. 

“The best part about it is Mitch is such a good ambassador to our school,” said Rocco Constantino, Director of Athletics at City College. “He’s a good, humble man.” 

Wishnowsky expressed his feelings of elation over being chosen.

“I was obviously over the moon when I got the call,” he said.

The NFL draft occurs in April, and training camp typically begins at the end of July. Between then, players train and prepare for the season. 

Rookies attend “minicamps” right after the draft so they can start working with their team, and the coaching staff can start to map out their plan for camp.

The 49ers kicked off their slate of four preseason games on August 10 against the Dallas Cowboys, but the real story came the following week when they played the Denver Broncos. In the middle of the third quarter, Wishnowsky kicked the ball down the field to Broncos running-back Devontae Jackson.

Jackson made it to Denver’s 23-yard line before being tackled hard not by a defender but by Wishnowsky. 

The play immediately went viral, making headlines on Yahoo Sports, Sports Illustrated, and the San Francisco Chronicle among many others. 

Kickers can tackle but it’s rare. 

“It feels good mixing it up and doing what the other players do,” said Wishnowsky. 

Wishnowsky’s play against the Broncos was wild and unconventional, but not foreign to Mitch. He contributes to his team in any way he can, and now he gets to do it on the biggest stage in sports. 

Wishnowsky and the 49ers kick off their regular season on September 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

 

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