Prosecutors: 'Punt God' Was Framed
State of the Union: Prosecutors say former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza wasn’t present at the alleged gang rape that ruined his NFL career.
Matt Araiza was the best punting prospect in a generation. The former San Diego State Aztec-turned-Buffalo Bill was described in scouting reports as having "once-in-a-lifetime leg strength." Nicknamed "Punt [g]od," Araiza set all-time, single-season collegiate records for punts of fifty- and sixty-plus yards and yards-per-punt (51.19), and won the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's best collegiate punter in honor of pro football's only Hall of Fame punter, former Oakland Raider and first-round draft pick Ray Guy.
While punter is a low-priority position for most NFL teams—it's relatively rare for punters to be drafted, and even rarer for them to be taken in anything but the Draft's final round—the Buffalo Bills used their sixth-round pick on Araiza in 2022. He quickly vindicated the scouting reports, uncorking a mind-blowing eighty-two-yard bomb off his left foot in a Bills preseason game. The Bills broadcast booth said to fans after the kick: "I think you've found your punter."
Ariaza's promising career came crashing down months before the 2022 NFL season was to kick off. An accusation of gang rape against a then-17-year-old girl was brought to light in a civil suit last August. While Bills officials were reportedly aware of the allegation before drafting Araiza, the filing of the lawsuit prompted the team to part ways with its star punter.
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Immediately after the case was made public, Araiza denied the allegations, saying, "The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight."
Now, months after California prosecutors had declined to bring a criminal case against Ariaza, prosecutors are saying Ariaza wasn't even on the premises when the alleged rape took place. Witnesses reportedly claim the alleged victim in the case also lied to other partygoers about her age.
If prosecutors are right, Araiza had his reputation tarnished and possibly his NFL career ruined on the basis of a false rape accusation. The former punter is left to pick up the pieces after losing his dream job, facing potential jail time, and staring down a lifetime on the sex offender registry. His accuser, meanwhile, continues to press her case.