Roberto Aguayo has won a national championship, multiple ACC titles and just about every individual accolade that a college kicker can win. But when the time came to decide whether to return for his redshirt junior season, the choice was easy for the former Groza Award winner.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher named Aguayo one of five permanent captains for the 2014 campaign, and while it might seem rare to see a kicker as a captain, it’s also rare to see a kicker do what Aguayo has done. He holds the national record for points in a season (157) from his incredible ’13 effort during the team’s run to the national title. He made 23 straight field goals in a stretch that spanned into last season, and went 27 of 30 on field goals last year.
Aguayo still feels like he has work left to do, and will take on a new role for a program that will look very different this fall. Gone are Jameis Winston, Nick O’Leary, Rashad Greene and Mario Edwards Jr., among many others. There is plenty of talent coming in, but it’d be a little insane to think these Seminoles can begin another 29-game winning streak.
SI.com caught up with Aguayo to talk about his decision to bypass the NFL draft and return to school, his approach to kicking and, of course, his take on Fisher’s idea to install lasers atop the goal posts.
SI: What are your personal and team goals entering this season?
Roberto Aguayo: Overall just to better myself as an athlete and become a more well-rounded person. On the field, we’re a very young team, but it’s exciting because we have a bunch of good athletes. We’re going to see how we get together and perform. Off the field in my classes, getting my degree, I’m really looking forward to that.
SI: You mentioned how young this team will be. With so many familiar faces off to the NFL, are you taking on more of a leadership role? What did you take away from the departed guys that you’re trying to use to help carry this team?
RA: I have to step into that leadership role. You might say not that many kickers do that, but the reputation I’ve gotten over the past three years being here, I’ve gotten a lot of a respect, and I’ve earned the respect of my teammates doing what I do. I embrace it. I show that I work hard in the offseason. To get there isn’t an easy task. It’s not that just because I am a kicker I don’t have to do this or I don’t have to work out as hard. I do the full Four Quarter [offseason program], all the lifts and all the workouts in the summer to get that respect.
And taking away what the guys who were there before me showed me, it’s building that comfort with the young guys and bringing them under our wings to let them know they can make an impact. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman. If you can play you’re going to play. It’s getting everybody on track and showing these young guys what it takes to win and right now.
SI: What have you learned over the last year that has improved your kicking?
RA: Just visualizing more. Visualizing the kick and the process in my head. Minimizing reps and really having more mental reps of a kick because now that I’m older, I’m wiser. I’m like a pitcher. I have a kick count, just like a pitcher has a pitch count. There are only so many reps I can take during the week because I have to have my leg as strong the first week as it is at the end of the season. That’s really what I focus on—quality versus quantity. Every kick I take is about the whole operation. I’d rather kick field goals with my long snapper and my holder, all of us working together, than kicking on the stick. You can make all the kicks on the stick. It’s about getting that timing down. I can’t be the guy I am without them, too.
SI: Your brother, Ricky, is a kicker recruit in the 2016 class. Is it cool having another guy in the family doing what you do? What advice have you given him?
RA: He has watched the whole process growing up since I was a freshman [in high school]. He has followed in my footsteps. It’s harder for him because he wants to live up to my expectations and be the No. 1 guy coming out of high school. He had a harder time because I feel like my leg was already developed coming into ninth grade. He had to develop until around six months ago, when he found his power, and now he’s the No. 3 kicker in the country with Kohl’s [Camp]. He’s really blossomed the past year or so. Now that he’s at IMG doing his training there, he’s going to be strong. Working on strength, he has the mentality of getting that power and leg strength to be able to make the kick. Other than that, he’s going to land somewhere Division I and we’ll wait to see where.
SI: Jimbo mentioned his ideas about putting laser beams on top of field goal posts a while ago, and Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan brought up the notion again last season. Do you feel like electronic accuracy monitoring is something that should be implemented in kicking?
RA: Personally, I think the laser idea is a good idea. I’m still behind Jimbo. I’ll back him up on that. Games can be won or lost on a kick. I’ve seen it, a kick has gone close and one ref looks at the other. Not a lot of people know this, but my redshirt year, Dustin [Hopkins] was still kicking, and he hit a 27-yarder. He comes off the field and says, “Guys, I missed that.” But the refs counted it in. They said it was good. It went right over the upright.
One of the kicks I missed this year went over the uprights, too. It looked like I missed it, but when they showed it on the JumboTron the whole stadium booed. It looked good on the JumboTron. Depending on what angle you’re looking at, it’s hard. Lasers I feel like would be a good idea. It’s just about figuring out whether if it goes inside the laser it’s good, or if it touches the laser it’s no good. That would have to be discussed. Either get lasers or make the uprights a little bit longer. Kickers are getting much better and they’re hitting it a lot higher.
SI: Do you have a kick at Florida State you wish you could have back?
RA: I wish I had back the [41-yarder] at Louisville last year. The whole week didn’t really go well. I didn’t have a good week of practice. I went into the game and wasn’t clicking on all cylinders and come pregame it was hard for me to adjust. It was just a little error. I kept my foot open, and it didn’t go all the way in. It was an easy thing. I would’ve made it nine out of 10 times. But a little mental error, and it cost me. I was more angry about that kick because it was a close game. You remember the Louisville game, we were down by 21.
SI: How about a kick you’ll never forget?
RA: The first kick I hit. My first career field goal on the road against Pittsburgh. I know it was only like a 27-yarder. But a field goal is a field goal, whether it’s 55 or 25 yards. I’ll never forget that one.