The Koch family

Ravens punter Sam Koch with his wife, Nikki, and their sons, from left, Kamdyn, Braxtyn and Ryan. (Courtesy of Jennifer Didio Photography / November 6, 2013)

Prior to being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2006, Koch played in his native Nebraska at University of Nebraska, where he earned a degree in business administration. He and his wife, Nikki, live in Westminster with their three sons, Ryan, 15, Braxtyn, 9, and Kamdyn, 7. The couple will welcome a daughter this fall. Along with his thoughts on youth football and fatherhood, Koch says that, yes, everyone in his family has one of No. 4’s signature “Punters are people too” T-shirts.

Maryland Family: How do you balance your family life as a dad with your career as a football player being on the road so much?

Sam Koch: Being able to balance is definitely tough. That’s why it’s great to have my wife. She does an amazing job with the three boys. I try to spend as much time and do as much as I can in the off-season. During training camps, I don’t get home until right before they go to bed, and it makes it a little tough. We don’t always get to play and do things those days, but as soon as I get home during the season we’re always outside. We’re always playing together as a family and just trying to find ways to still have that family time even though they know I’m well dedicated to the season.

Now that they’re getting older, they’re starting to understand it a little more, whereas when they were younger they didn’t really understand why I have to go during the season and then in the off-season I can be home every day. It was a hard adjustment in the beginning, but now it’s definitely gotten a lot easier. It’s a blast having kids, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being able to have the career I have and them being able to experience it, I think, is a great thing.

MF: What are your favorite ways to spend time with your boys?

SK: We typically like to play outside. With my oldest it’s talking politics. He loves politics, he loves reading, anything to do with history. So if we can talk about that he’s having the time of his life. With my middle one, we like being outside playing any kind of sports. And my young one, golfing is typically what he likes. I like to take them all golfing since they all do somewhat enjoy it. A lot of times we’ll go up to Westminster National. It’s a great little course, and they let us bring the kids on. They love to play with the neighbors, so we’ll go down and play some soccer. I played soccer in high school, so I was able to teach them a few things.

MF: Holiday time is at the height of your season. So what are the challenges of being a dad who’s on the road traveling or even playing a game on Thanksgiving or right around Christmastime?

SK: That’s always the hardest. We’ve had one Thanksgiving Day game that was two years ago. It’s kind of tough, but with (Coach) Harbaugh being here, he’s always “family first.” And he always tries to do everything he can to include the families, whether it be to bring them here (to the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills) for the day while we’re at practice or let us get out of practice early. Sometimes kids just don’t understand that we have to travel on Christmas Day. That makes it hard because I’m a huge Christmas guy. I like Christmas, my boys do, and when I have to leave they kind of get sad. But we have a quick turn-around.

MF: What are your favorite family holiday traditions?

SK: As a family now we’ve started some traditions. We have an artificial tree in the house, but we also go out and pick our own tree that the boys can decorate. We sit down together at the table every night, and Thanksgiving is just one of those times. My wife has gotten good at cooking Thanksgiving dinner so that when we come home from practice it’s there. My oldest definitely is always trying to help Mom. The kids want to help, especially when dessert is involved.

MF: When Dad is in the spotlight, there’s bound to be criticism here and there. Have you and your wife talked to your sons about how to react when they hear things about you?

SK: Especially with all the kids in school, nowadays people always have to be talking. They hear plenty of that criticism, maybe from the kid’s dad and then the kid takes it to school the next day. He’ll come home and talk about it. It’s something that’s going to happen in life. There’s always critics out there who always think they know what’s best, what’s right. We always tell them not to even worry about it. Just listen, let it go in one ear and then go out the other. Keep doing the job you’re doing, keep focused.

MF: Does your family have any special traditions for home games?

SK: Friday nights before the Sunday game we always go out to dinner. A lot of times we’ll just leave it up to the kids to pick a place they want to go. And then Saturday, whether we’re traveling to the stadium or to the hotel in downtown Baltimore, it’s always Chic-fil-A that day. It’s just one of those things we’ve had, and the boys know that when it comes Saturday they’re getting Chic-fil-A. I got sick of Popeyes. The rookies have to get chicken, so I got sick of that my first year.

MF: Do your sons play football, or other sports?

SK: My oldest plays football. He’s a freshman at Winters Mill this year. My two youngest, I haven’t started them in football. I want them to wait and see what they really want to play. They want to play, but I just think with the whole pads and things I want to postpone it as long as I can. Other sports that they play — the oldest plays lacrosse, the other two play soccer. They’ll be doing some basketball this year.

MF: With more attention on concussions and safety in recent years, what are your thoughts on youth football, and when is a good time to start?

SK: That has a little bit to do with the reason the two younger ones haven’t played yet. Earlier in my career, I was just excited for my oldest to play, just to see him out there playing. As time went on I would see first- and second-graders out there in helmets. It just seems like there are way too many chances for accidents and things to go wrong that I don’t want to throw my young ones in there.

My oldest was always tall, so it was a little easier for him to get used to the pads and stuff like that, so I thought it was OK. But with the concussion issue and as much studying as they’re doing I feel like that’s a factor before I put them out there in the pads. I think the older they get the more they’ll understand not to lower their head, not to use their head.

MF: Since you moved to Carroll County, what are your favorite things about your community and living in Maryland?