Normally, replacing one of the best players at his position is a challenge. Not this year, and not at kicker, for FSU. For all of the issues FSU has had with kickers, FSU has had a good run lately. Graham Gano and Dustin Hopkins were likely two of the best kickers in the last decade. Likely, Roberto Aguayo will be filling their shoes without missing a beat:
There was no chance Roberto Aguayo would see action. Two months earlier, he wasn’t even expecting a scholarship. This was simply a dry run, a small sample of what the life of a kicker might someday be like.
Roberto Aguayo didn’t see any action last season, but was one of the top-ranked kickers in his recruiting class.
And yet, when Aguayo stepped through the tunnel last September and onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for warm-ups before Florida State’s opener, the gravity of the proceedings overwhelmed him.
“My stomach — butterflies just hit it,” Aguayo said.
Eventually the nerves subsided, and while Aguayo made it through the game — and then the season — without ever lining up for a kick, the experience meant something.
For a team and a fan base that enjoyed the calm consistency of college football’s most prolific kicker during the past four years, Aguayo is something new — and that can be a frightening prospect. But for him, the experience already feels routine, and routine is a kicker’s best friend.
“I feel confident,” said Aguayo, who was set to greyshirt in 2012 before a scholarship opened up at the last minute. “I don’t like to pressure myself. Right now I’m focused on school, spring ball is going well, and I’m taking it step by step.”
Kicking has always come naturally to Aguayo, who started playing soccer when he was just 2. When he was 8, his Pop Warner team needed someone to boot extra points, and Aguayo was the only logical candidate.
“I kicked the farthest,” he said. “Everybody else’s would go 2 yards off the ground.”
The rigors of the job didn’t change much through high school, where Aguayo was considered one of the top kicking prospects in the nation. But when he arrived at Florida State, it quickly became clear that there was a nuance to the preparation that made all the difference on game day. It’s a methodical approach Dustin Hopkins executed with precision.
In practice, Aguayo would boom kick after kick. Hopkins preached restraint. On game day, Aguayo soaked in the energy of the big stage. Hopkins relished the minutiae. Through the season, Aguayo watched and learned, while Hopkins decimated virtually every kicking mark in the NCAA record books.
“All these little details, going out to the games, what he would do, how he’d work pregame — I always asked him questions,” Aguayo said. “He would tell me, and I’d think, ‘Wow, that’s a different perspective.’ ”
This is the difference a year makes, even if it was a year spent on the sidelines. Aguayo has perspective.
But if that year of experience as a spectator allowed Aguayo to get his bearings, it also allowed for lofty expectations to blossom. Hopkins has helped with that, too, feeding the hype machine by lauding Aguayo’s potential.
“I was blessed enough to have some accolades toward the end of my career, and I will not be surprised if he gets more,” Hopkins said. “He’s really talented.”
Aguayo knows the big shoes he has to fill, but he still enjoys hearing such praise. Sure, it’s a bit intimidating, but it’s also motivation. Motivation feeds the routine, the routine breeds success.
At the end of each practice session last season, the kicking unit ran “torro” drills — the special teams unit dashing onto the field as precious seconds ticked off the clock for a final field-goal try. It was an exercise that offered none of the game-day spectacle, but Aguayo took it seriously nevertheless. When he runs the “torro” drill on a Saturday this fall, he expects it will be no different than the drills he’s done a hundred times on the practice field.
“That’s what helps me coming into games now,” Aguayo said. “I’ve seen that. Don’t worry about it. I feel good that I’ve been here for the first year learning all that stuff.”