Dato Kicks Himself into the NFL Draft


Published: May 1, 2008

Traditionally, few punters generate interest in the annual NFL Draft, but this year Ben Dato, CBA ’08, can count himself among this exclusive fraternity.

Dato officially became a member of the NFL on April 27, signing a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens.

“It came down to today,” Dato told the New York Daily News on Sunday night. “My agent and I evaluated each opportunity and which team would give me the best chance for the future. In the end, we thought Baltimore was best. I’m excited that they’re bringing me in for my punting and kickoffs.”

Although Dato handled kickoff duties in his first two seasons, he had to wait until his junior campaign to see action as a punter. Dato made the most of his time, however, collecting several accolades and leaving his imprint on the Fordham University program.

Dato’s 2,992 total yards punted in 2007 is a Rams’ team record, as is his career punt average (44.6 yards/punt). Over his final two seasons, Dato led the Patriot League in individual punting average and total punt yardage. Following this trend, in 2007, Dato led Fordham to finish fifth in all of college football in punting average and first in net punting average (40.52 yards/punt).

His results have not gone unnoticed by the national media. The Associated Press named Dato a third-team All-American in 2006 and with a repeat performance in 2007, when Dato earned second-team honors.

“When I first talked to an NFL scout, it sank in that [playing in the NFL] was a real opportunity and it was something that I could achieve,” Dato said. “I worked very hard to get where I am, and I am ready to sacrifice even more to get to the next level.”

Though the allure of Vince Lombardi and the legendary Seven Blocks of Granite still hang over the Rams football team, the program has produced few NFL players in recent years.

If Dato lands on an NFL roster, he will be the first such player since defensive end Aki Jones joined the Washington Redskins in 2005.

Before Jones, you have to look all the way back to 2000 to find the next Fordham-alum in the NFL: former Dallas Cowboys punter Barry Cantrell. For those of you keeping score at home, it was Cantrell whom Dato ousted as the Fordham record-holder for punting average.

A native of Wyomissing, Penn., Dato will graduate with a major in business administration with a concentration in communications, but he plans to pursue a career in the NFL for several years before falling back on his degree.

“Playing in the NFL is something I am so confident that I can do that I will not let being cut or [going] undrafted stop me,” Dato said. “It’s hard mentally, but the first paycheck will make it all worth it.”