(Photo: Jannah Din/WCSN)
Despite the improvements that need to be made on punting for Arizona State’s special teams, the kicking game is considered one of the best in the nation, led by true freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez.
Last week against Washington, Gonzalez racked up a total 17 points of ASU’s 53 points and was 4-for-4 in field goal attempts, earning him Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.
“I was kind of shocked,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a great honor to get it at such a young age.”
Gonzalez is turning heads from everyone in the nation, with his last missed field goal as far back as week three against Stanford. He is currently 11-for-11 on field goal attempts in the past four games. Although he may be one of the best kickers in the nation, he still sees room for improvement.
“I need to improve on my tempo, and getting the ball off in 1.3 seconds,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is the fifth-leading scorer in the nation. And with 15 more made field goals, he could break Arizona State’s record of 28 field goals in a single season.
All the way back from his days in Deer Park, TX, Gonzalez is accustomed to perfection. He was 25-for-25 on field goal attempts in high school, so his 78.6 percent field goal percentage isn’t satisfying.
“My ultimate goal is the Groza award [given to the nation’s top kicker],” Gonzalez said. “But those three misses has kind of killed me and set me behind.”
The three misses Gonzalez referenced all came in the first 3 games of the season. Since the Stanford game, Gonzalez has been performing to his best ability. He kicked his longest field goal thus far (41 yards) on one of the nation’s biggest stages in Dallas, against Notre Dame.
“The Notre Dame game was a really big deal because I got to play in front of my family,” Gonzalez said. “I was kind of nervous, kicking in that big of a stadium, but it was my proudest moment so far.”
Although it’s easy for a team to rally behind a great kicker, Gonzalez has stood out to the rest of the team due to his hard work and determination.
“A lot of the older guys get behind me and keep me confident, and even if I miss they’ll stay behind me,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez grew up watching Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins who inspired him to stay genuine throughout his career. Along with his aspirations, he has a support system to keep him grounded.
“Coach Lorig [ASU football’s special teams coach] and my dad tell me not to get too cocky and remind me to stay humble,” Gonzalez said.
ASU’s special teams’ units have been far from perfect this year. The punting game may need improvements, but Sun Devil fans are too distracted by the talents and leadership Gonzalez possesses. You can tell from all the “dZANEgo”, “inZANEity” and even “Zane for Heisman” campaigns around Twitter.
“It makes me happy honestly,” Gonzalez said of the support and attention he’s received. “It puts a smile on my face.”