At one time, the University of Arizona men’s basketball team was turning out so many of the nation’s best college point guards that it earned the nickname “Point Guard U.”
So maybe Arizona State will soon become known as “Kicker U.”
In 2007, Thomas Weber set a new ASU record by successfully converting his first 17 tries and then went on to finish the season with 22 of 23 made attempts. For that performance, he was named that year’s winner of the Lou Groza Award, which honors the nation’s top collegiate place kicker.
And now the Pac-12 school has become one of just three universities across the country that can claim multiple winners of the award. Zane Gonzalez was presented the award last night at the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.
The senior from Deer Park, TX, took Weber’s legacy to the next level. Gonzalez wrapped up his collegiate career as the all-time FBS leader in field goals made (96) and points by a kicker (494) and will always be remembered for his performance this season, during which he converted 23 of 25 attempts to lead the Pac-12 in both makes and percentage.
In an ironic twist, the presentation of the award on ESPN helps to settle an argument the sports network created back in October when it issued its annual mid-season All-American team selections. Gonzalez was not named to the team, with the kicker’s spot going instead to Auburn’s Daniel Carlson – who was one of three finalists Gonzalez beat to earn the Groza Award. (The other finalist was Younghoe Koo from Georgia Southern.)
ESPN’s team stood out from the other major media picks since it was alone in its snub of Gonzalez. USA Today, CBSsports, SI.com, and Sporting News all selected the Sun Devil as their kicker.
But after Gonzalez wrapped up an impressive senior season, it was hard not to recognize his worthiness for the Groza Award.
By the time the 2016 season ended, he had already won four Lou Groza Star of the Week honors, more than any other kicker in the nation, and closed out his career with six Star of the Week awards, the most by any kicker in the award’s history.
If there was any one defining trait to this year’s success it would probably be his improved consistency on long-distance kicks. He led the FBS schools with 14 from at least 40 yards out and also notched seven conversions out of nine attempts from 50 yards or more. His 59-yarder was the longest of the season.
Gonzalez was also named to five different All-America first teams, the most notable being the 2016 Walter Camp All-America First Team, the oldest All-America team in the nation.