SAN DIEGO — So many college kickers, even good ones, have to start out as walk-ons and work their way into a job. No glory on national signing day, no scholarship help.
Zane Gonzalez’s story isn’t one of those. It just looked as if it was headed in that direction.
“It’s kind of weird to think how 10, 11 months ago, I had no offers, nothing,” the Arizona State freshman said Thursday after his team’s Holiday Bowl practice at Mesa College. “To go from that to being where I’m at today is just awesome. It’s a blessing.”
Gonzalez, a born-and-raised Texan from Deer Park, made his college debut this season by converting 22 of 26 field goals and being named first-team all-Pac-12 Conference. By coincidence, his numbers are identical to those of Ryan Bustin from Texas Tech, the team the Sun Devils face Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Gonzalez and Bustin are tied for third in the FBS in field goals made behind two kickers with 23.
And to think: Gonzalez had nowhere to go on signing day in February.
“I didn’t really have any offers, honestly,” he said. “The one offer I had before signing day was Nevada, and I really didn’t want to go there, didn’t feel comfortable there. So I was going to try to walk on here or walk on (at Texas) A&M or somewhere like that. And then a little bit after signing day, Wisconsin offered and Arizona State kind of counter-offered that.”
The resume was there to suggest Gonzalez could be a successful college kicker. As a junior at Deer Park, he made 16 of 18 field goals. As a senior, he went 10 for 10, earning second-team all-Greater Houston honors for the second year in a row and third-team all-state recognition from the Texas Sports Writers Association.
Gonzalez wound up signing on March 28, seven weeks after signing day. As it turns out, one solid offer was all he needed. After going 4-for-7 in the first three games, Gonzalez made 18 field goals in a row from week four through the end of the regular season before missing one against Stanford in the Dec. 7 Pac-12 Conference championship game.
Gonzalez said he’d never attempted 22 field goals in a season, much less made 22. Nevertheless, he didn’t surprise himself with his freshman-year showing.
“No, I knew I was capable of it,” said Gonzalez, who made two or more field goals in eight games. “That was a good season. A couple of kicks I’d like to get back, be a little bit better percentage-wise, but I’m happy with his year so far. I’ve had a good year.”
Gonzalez describes himself as “a huge Notre Dame fan.” And having grown up in the Houston suburbs, he says he gladly would have listened had Texas or Texas A&M recruited him.
But everything has worked out well since Arizona State special teams coordinator Joe Lorig called him after spring break with a scholarship offer.
“It was right before I went on my visit to Wisconsin,” Gonzalez said, “so I was really happy. I really wanted to come here. I loved it here when I visited, and the weather’s great. You can’t really beat this.”