After a shaky practice on the first day of Camp Tontozona, Zane Gonzalez, a freshman from Deer Park, Tex. has been near perfect for the rest of this month’s practices, beating out returning kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora for the starting job.
Gonzalez said that his assurance has been increasing as he’s gotten more comfortable with the snapper (Easton Wahlstrom) and the holder (Mike Bercovici). He also knows that just because you’re at ease performing well in practice, that it might not necessarily translate into game success. Nonetheless, Gonzalez is up to the challenge and is eager to show his worth.
“I’m feeling great and I’m ready for the season to start to prove why I deserve the starting spot,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez mentioned that in light of the explosive nature of the Sun Devil offense, the coaches are expecting him to be one of the top point scorers in the Pac-12 this year. Being asked to step in and produce right away as a freshman could be daunting to some, but Gonzalez maintains a different outlook.
“I look at is as an honor and a privilege to get the opportunity to do this,” Gonzalez said. “The Pac-12 is a pretty big conference and I’m excited to go out there and perform my best and hopefully at the end of the season it will have been a great one.”
For the last five seasons, Arizona State has struggled in field goal situations. The Sun Devils have converted on just 57 percent of their tries from 30-49 yards in that time period, something that has caused this position to be much maligned in recent years.
“There might be more pressure on me because of that but I don’t really worry about it,” Gonzalez claimed. “I’ve heard about the past stories, but I’ve also heard about Thomas Weber and how he won the Groza award his freshman year. So I look at that more as in trying to back up in his shoes rather than coming in here and doing better than the past kickers.”
It has been said that in caparison to other roles on a football team that the kicking position may require even more mental competency than technical aptitude, and can be the loneliest spot on the squad. Games are often decided by a field goal and if the snap and hold are both good, all of the pressure lies on one guy’s shoulders. Gonzalez knows the feeling all too well.
“It can be (the loneliest spot) at times, if you miss it you’re hated but if you make it you were kind of supposed to make it so it’s almost a lose-lose situation,” Gonzales said laughing. “But it’s worth it. The rest of the guys are out here busting their butts every day and we just have to focus on our one job so it’s expected but everyone has their own job so you just have to do it.”
So what’s Gonzalez’s mindset going to be when he will encounter 90,000 fans in Pasadena, for example, screaming at him with the game winning kick and possibly the Pac-12 South crown on the line?
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Gonzalez admitted. “I haven’t been in a situation like that so I can’t really say. But, my best guess would probably be just relax and pretend it’s just a regular practice kick and just go out there and do what you can do.”