By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Aug 31, 2016 at 5:04 PM

When Tim Masthay was at the University of Kentucky, he was able to pay only $100 a month in rent by living in a utility closet during his sophomore year. Finding penny-wise ways like that to preserve his football scholarship checks, by the time he graduated, Masthay had saved $10,000, which he then used to buy his wife Amanda’s engagement ring and begin their married lives right out of college, before his NFL career took off.

Masthay went on to make more than $5 million in his six seasons in Green Bay, as he became the Packers’ all-time leader in both career gross punting average and net punting average and also set other franchise records. But as prudent as Masthay might be, not even his ample earnings could have made Tuesday’s bad news any better.

The Packers released the veteran punter two days before their last preseason game – Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Chiefs – and four days prior to the NFL’s final cut-down to the 53-man roster. The team claimed off waivers 27-year-old Jacob Schum, who was the Buccaneers’ punter for all 16 games last season and will effectively try out for the job against Kansas City.

After Green Bay on Monday released his training-camp competition, local product Peter Mortell, it seemed Masthay had an upper leg on the position. He sounded guarded but confident in his locker-room comments, telling reporters, "One, I don’t feel like I’ve won anything yet. And two, I’m not here to just win a job; I’m not here to survive cut day. I’m here to help the Packers win football games. That’s what I’m interested in doing. That’s what I’m focused on doing.

"As far as I’m concerned, this is still a phase of camp where I’m still fighting to earn a roster spot and fighting to be prepared to be an asset here during the season if and when I am on the roster."

One day later, though, Masthay was gone, his fight to earn a roster spot over, his time in Green Bay ended.

Nicknamed the Ginger Wolverine and one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets for good-natured ribbing, Masthay was always a source of honest insight and amiable conversation with media in the Packers’ locker room. As the anecdote about his college frugality suggests, Masthay was humble, down-to-earth and accessible. Personally, I enjoyed talking to him about soccer and, particularly, the U.S. Men’s National Team.

One of the more athletic punters in the league – he was a four-sport high school star in football, soccer, basketball and baseball – Masthay’s career-long kick was 71 yards, but he also had an awesome, unofficial 88-yarder at the NFL Punt Competition in 2014. Among the most involved Packers off the field, he was very popular with fans, especially youth soccer players.

In memory of his Packers career, here are three of my favorite Masthay moments:

1. The throw

After the second game of the season in 2012, Masthay was named the NFL Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time in his career. Unlike the first two honors, though, this one wasn’t as much for his leg as for his arm.

With the Packers up 3-0 against the Bears in the second quarter, they had a fourth-and-26 situation at the Chicago 27-yard line. Green Bay lined up for a field goal but it was a fake: Masthay, the trusty holder for kicker (and 2015 team MVP) Mason Crosby, coolly flipped a touchdown toss to tight end Tom Crabtree. It was the first time a Packers punter had thrown a touchdown pass since 1972.

The score gave the Packers a bigger lead and, ultimately, their first win of the season. Masthay also punted five times in the game with a net average of 42 yards; most importantly, he did not allow a touchdown to talented Bears returner Devin Hester.

(Honorable mention: The Run. In a 2011 game against Tampa Bay, Masthay attempted to punt but fumbled the ball, so he collected it and had to scramble out of the backfield. After crossing the line of scrimmage, he fumbled again, this time forward and out of bounds, which was enough for a first down. Perfect.)

2. The hit

It was just a 2013 preseason game that seemingly meant nothing. But one play, which didn’t even officially count in an exhibition game, meant everything to many Packers fans. First, let’s go back and get some context.

In Week 3 of 2012, Seattle’s Golden Tate had caught the infamous Fail Mary/Intertouchdownception pass on the final play that beat Green Bay, caused the Replacement Ref Era to end and, eventually, cost the Packers a first-round playoff bye. Cheeseheads will undoubtedly never forget the controversial play, and Golden Tate – especially after his brash certitude – became a de facto public enemy for Packers Nation.

So when Green Bay hosted Seattle in the preseason the following year, and Masthay punted to Tate in the second quarter at Lambeau Field, you could almost feel fans frothing at the mouths. It got even more incensed when Masthay was knocked over, prompting a flag to be thrown as Tate returned the punt.

After evading several defenders and taking the ball back nearly 50 yards, Tate met Masthay, who was waiting for him, standing stout, and tackled the Seahawks player to the raucous cheers of the home crowd. Because of offsetting penalties – a Green Bay player had committed unnecessary roughness – the punt, return and tackle were not recorded. But the hit will always be remembered.

3. The reason the Packers went to the Super Bowl

In Week 3 of the 2010 season, Chicago beat Green Bay, 20-17, thanks to a 62-yard punt return touchdown by Hester. The Bears would win the NFC North division, while the Packers made the playoffs as a Wild Card. In the NFC Championship Game four months after that loss, Masthay, his coverage team and the Packers got their revenge.

Masthay punted eight times for an average of 41.8 yards, with a long of 65 and an incredible five attempts inside the 20-yard line. Hester was only able to return three of the punts and for just 16 yards, the Bears’ best weapon completely neutralized in Green Bay’s 21-14 victory.

After winning the NFC Championship, general manager Ted Thompson, usually tight-lipped and not prone to public praise, said, "(Masthay) won the game for us. I thought he was magnificent."

That triumph sent the Packers to Arlington, Texas, where they beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV for the franchise's fourth title. Thus, by a loose application of the transitive property that the author may not fully understand, if the punter won the NFC Championship Game for the Packers and winning it sent them to the Super Bowl, then the punter sent the Packers to the Super Bowl. Or something.

Anyway, Tim Masthay, you will be missed. Just not by the Bears.

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.