The Best Kicking Prospect in the NFL Draft Started With A Soccer Ball

Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo is the first underclassman kicker to declare for the NFL Draft in 16 years. Arguably the best kicking prospect in well over a decade, the Florida-born Mexican-American looks set to become the first kicker selected in the first three rounds since 2005. Recent league rule changes – a 2- to 15-yard line extra point change and touchback adjustments – make it more than an ideal time to for a kicker to go pro.

Aguayo has been described as a “virtual kicking machine.” He made all 198 of his extra-point attempts in college and went 49-for-49 on field goals inside 40 yards. But he wasn’t always kicking a football; his father, Roberto Sr., first taught his son soccer upon fleeing Mexico in the mid-80s, en route to becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Roberto Sr. grew up on a ranch in the Guanajuato town of Capellanía. Given his family’s difficult living situation (they didn’t have “electricity, running water or the resources to look beyond the day to day”) he decided to make the journey hundreds of miles up north to provide for his loved ones at age 18.

His first attempt was met with quick deportation in 1984, and a second try the following year ended similarly. Thankfully, a third and final go in 1986 kept him stateside for good.

In light of his family’s history, Roberto Jr.’s high school coach Walter Banks explained, “I just knew that he had the mental toughness that came from the upbringing he had and the things he had to go through. One thing we emphasized was mental toughness. That’s why when he goes up to make a kick, I don’t care what pressure situation it is: I know he’s going to make it, and in his mind he knows he’s going to make it.”

“I could tell the first time I saw him kick the ball,” Banks went on. “The sound it made when his foot hit the ball was something I’d never heard, just the power he had…I knew he was going to be something special.”

Where did that power come from? His fútbol-loving father, of course.

By the age of 3, Roberto Sr. had his son blasting soccer balls in the backyard. In fact, Roberto Jr. visualized footballs as fútbols long before learning the intricacies of the American sport.

Every morning throughout his childhood, Aguayo was met with the same greeting from his pops: “Buenos días, mis campeones del balón pie.” Good morning, my fútbol champions, in reference to the sport he knew and loved from back home in Mexico: soccer. Aguayo played both sports until his freshman year of high school, when a bone bruise at the start of the season kept him out for three long months.

Aguayo and his family’s story is one of perseverance, dedication, and motivation, despite any and all adversity. It’s no secret. Fans, players, and coaches alike will be hoping he gets called to compete for their squads.

“Once I saw his work ethic,” Banks said, “I said, ‘This is a pro.’ Normally, kickers – they’ll go out and kick a few balls and then move on – that’s pretty much what they do in high school. But this kid worked harder than our quarterbacks.”