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INDOOR FOOTBALL: From BSU to Axemen, former Beaver kicker Pulkinen continues his football career in Bemidji

Bemidji Axemen kicker Zach Pulkinen, a former BSU star, has found some success in the IFL. Although Pulkinen was more established as a punter in college, and there is no punting in the IFL, Pulkinen is starting to come into his own as a field goal kicker as well. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — When the Bemidji Axemen came to town, former BSU punter and kicker Zach Pulkinen took advantage of a rare opportunity.

Shortly after finishing up his senior season with the Beavers, Pulkinen contacted Axemen head coach Robert Fuller hoping to use the Axemen turf to continue working on his kicking in preparation for NFL combine workouts.

Fuller, who had seen Pulkinen kick while coaching at the University of Mary, invited him to not only use the turf, but also a spot on the roster as a back-up kicker.

“I finished up at BSU and heard the team was coming here so I got ahold of coach Fuller,” Pulkinen said. “I had just asked if I could get on the turf and kick some balls and he had actually saw me play while he was at U-Mary, so he said I could come practice with the team.

“He said if their kicker would struggle or get hurt it would be my job,” Pulkinen continued.

Despite Pulkinen having better numbers as punter than a kicker, Fuller said it was an easy decision to bring Pulkinen’s leg in to pair with Josiah Powell.

“It is pretty unique for us to get a guy that played in the previous fall,” Fuller said. “I saw first hand at University of Mary how good of a football player he is. It was a no-brainer for us to try to get him on our football team.”

Powell and Pulkinen split time for most of the season, but now the job appears to belong to the former Beaver for the remainder of the season.

“The reason we had two kickers was because we knew Zach was going to be unavailable for part of the season because of NFL workouts,” Fuller said. “Plus Josiah had already spent a year in the league. It was a good situation for us to have two good kickers.”

“It was different,” Pulkinen said of the shared role. “It was weird watching another guy kick and not being the kicker.”

So far with the Axemen, Pulkinen has made seven of his 18 field goal tries, with two attempts being blocked, and a long of 45 yards.

In his senior season with BSU, he made five of his 13 field goals with a long of 40 yards, while averaging 42.5 yards per punt.

“The field goal and the ball are both a lot smaller,” Pulkinen said of the indoor game. “The smallest failure in approach can make the ball spray in any given direction.”

Pulkinen said kicking in a more difficult environment, combined with the IFL’s reputation of helping players reach the next level, is what makes him love playing for the Axemen.

“I was an All-American punter, so obviously I wanted to go to the next level as a punter,” Pulkinen said. “But I did do everything so I am more of a combo guy. Kicking is what I am worst at, so if I can come in here and kick with a smaller ball and a smaller field goal, it will only help being outside with bigger field goals.

“Plus this league is all about helping players reach the next level, so I cannot complain about that,” Pulkinen said. “Playing in high pressure situations in front of big crowds is good practice for the next level.”

Pulkinen was the first former Beaver to turn in his green uniform for a red one, but he may have started a trend. On Thursday, the Axemen signed former BSU running back Avery Walker.

Fuller said bringing in players from BSU is a goal for the team in the future.

“The BSU football program has had some very talented football players come through,” Fuller said. “The more Beavers that we can turn into Axemen, the better. It is definitely something we want to grow in the future.”