LAS VEGAS — Mitch Wishnowsky said he won’t be willing to risk it all — not unless it’s in the cards, that is.
Back in Week 14 of this season, the fifth-year San Francisco 49ers punter went off-script when he ran a fake punt against the Seattle Seahawks. While he picked up 30 yards carrying the ball on the audible, a penalty brought the gain back.
“Just being able to hear from him and his experience with not only physically what you need to do to prepare but also mentally as well, it’s helped out a lot. And I’m very grateful to have vets like that in the room with me.” — 49ers rookie kicker Jake Moody on Mitch Wishnowsky
Wishnowsky did so without head coach Kyle Shanahan’s prior knowledge.
“You know, that wasn’t something I thought about. It was just you know, in that moment, something told me to run, so I ran,” he told the Deseret News on Thursday about the fake punt.
Come Sunday in the 2024 Super Bowl — when the 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (4:30 p.m. MST, CBS) — Wishnowsky said he’ll stick to punting.
“Yeah, my job is to punt the ball and I think that’ll be the plan in the Super Bowl,” the former Utah All-American punter and 2016 Ray Guy Award winner said.
Unlike the last time Wishnowsky played in the Super Bowl during his rookie 2019 season (back then, he had veteran kicker Robbie Gould on his sideline), this time he’ll be a veteran with plenty of experience to rely upon during the big game.
In addition to making the Super Bowl five seasons ago, San Francisco has also reached the NFC Championship the previous two seasons before finally breaking through and reaching the Super Bowl again this year.
One of Wishnowsky’s sidekicks, Jake Moody, is the rookie this time around. Moody is a first-year placekicker and a third-round draft pick out of Michigan.
Wishnowsky, who hails from Australia and got into the sport of football later than most, said it doesn’t matter that Moody is a first-year NFL player — he’s already a pro.
“I’m not like, ‘Oh, Jake’s the rookie.’ Jake’s probably played more football or just as much football as me,” Wishnowsky said.
“He’s already a pro coming into the room. He’s got a great mentality and all that, so really, when it’s not — we’ll give him a hard time about being a rookie, but other than that, it’s sort of like we’re all pros and treat him like that.”
Moody, for his part, is grateful for the veteran leadership he’s got in the 49ers room with Wishnowsky, who also serves as the team’s holder on field goals and point-after attempts, and seventh-year pro long snapper Taybor Pepper, who’s in his fourth season with San Francisco.
“Being a specialist is a different position than most — certain things work for certain people, and certain things don’t,” Moody said.
“Mitch and Taybor have both really helped me figure out my routine and what works for me as an NFL kicker. They’ve been in the league for a while and they’ve seen a lot of great kickers throughout their careers. Kind of teaching me what worked for the other kickers that they’ve seen and just getting me on a good path to start my career.”
During the regular season, Moody made 21 of 25 field-goal attempts. During the playoffs, he’s missed two field goals — both from 48 yards in back-to-back weeks against Green Bay and Detroit — but he has also made three others, including a 52-yarder against the Packers and from 43 and 33 yards against the Lions.
The 49ers won both games by three points, with Moody making a fourth-quarter field goal in each contest.
“Mitch was a rookie that went to the Super Bowl as well, so he’s kind of lived the same things that I have,” Moody said. “Just being able to hear from him and his experience with not only physically what you need to do to prepare but also mentally as well, it’s helped out a lot. And I’m very grateful to have vets like that in the room with me.”
Another big change for Wishnowsky since his last Super Bowl appearance was becoming a father. He and his wife Maddie have a 2-year-old daughter, Bowie.
“I think that’s one of the biggest changes, I guess, for me mentally going out and playing football. I think I was sort of narrow-minded as far as like what you’re playing for, things like that. And then once you have a daughter or a kid or start a family, it sort of becomes bigger. You’re not just playing for yourself,” Wishnowsky said.
“You want to make them proud and it would be cool for Bowie to grow up and me play long enough so that she remembers her dad playing football. I think it’s just sort of changed the way I approach the game.”
Come Sunday, Wishnowsky will have the chance again to create a lasting memory — one that could be historic, too, for his native Australia.
“I mean anyone wants to win a Super Bowl, but it would be great to be the first Australian to,” he said.