Dato Kicking His Way into the NFL


Published: January 31, 2008

At the end of his four-year career at Fordham University, punter and kickoff specialist Benjamin Dato, FCRH ’08, has plenty to be smiling about. His team won the Patriot League title in 2007 and earned a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.

The 44.6 yards per punt Dato averaged for his career are the best in Fordham football history. He is also ranked fifth in career punt yardage with the school. Dato’s excellence on the field has earned him All-American honors by Collegesports.com, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, The Sports Network and the Associated Press. With all the accolades Dato has received, professional scouts from the National Football League (NFL) have begun to take notice.

“What makes Ben so great on the field and what will help him at the next level is his intensity and dedication,” kicker Adam Danko, FCRH ’09, said. “In the time that I have known Ben, it is clear that those are the keys to his success.”

Since coming to the Bronx in 2004, Dato has been a versatile player. He has handled all of the punts and kickoffs for the team over the past four years and even attempted long field goals during his first two years. As quarterback John Skelton, CBA ’10, explains, one of Dato’s assets is his balanced approach to the game.

“Ben is always working hard towards becoming a better punter and kicker, but at the same time, he is always having a good time on the field,” Skelton said.

That work ethic during practice has produced results on game day. Dato had 26 of his 67 punts this past season downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, making it tougher for the opponent to drive up the field for a touchdown.

Dato grew up in the small town of Wyomissing, Penn., just outside of Reading. He attended Wyomissing Area High School, where he was a three-sport star in football, track and field and soccer. As Dato explains, it was not until his sophomore year of high school that the football coach came calling for his services.

“The coach saw how far I was kicking the soccer ball and asked me if I was interested in becoming a punter,” Dato said.

Dato’s role on the football team increased over the three years he played. First, he was asked to handle only punts. Kickoffs were then added, as were field goals as Dato’s confidence grew. The Wyomissing Area High School football team made the Pennsylvania State High School semifinals Dato’s junior year and the sectional playoffs his senior year.

When it came time for Dato to choose a college, he was discouraged at the recruitment offers from Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. The University of Oregon, University of Connecticut and University of Pittsburgh all wanted him, but not in the way Dato was expecting.

“All of the bigger schools wanted me to redshirt [sit out] my freshman year and did not offer me a scholarship,” Dato said. “I really wanted to go to a school that would give me a scholarship right away so I would not have to go to college for five years.”

Hofstra University and Fordham became the final two schools Dato considered, as a result of the scholarships they offered. On a recruiting trip to Rose Hill, Dato remembers what made him choose Fordham.

“I liked the look of the Rose Hill campus and understood that Fordham was a great academic school,” Dato said. “I met with existing members of the football team as well as coaches. We toured New York City and ate at the ESPN Zone in Times Square.”

Now that his college career is over, Dato is looking forward to an opportunity to play in the NFL. In March, Dato will participate in a NFL draft workout at Rutgers University. While it is not certain that Dato will be selected during that draft, he hopes that a team will sign him as a free agent for the 2008 season.

“Maybe one day my dream to play with my favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, will come true,” Dato said.