Although Latino audiences for both NFL and college football grow year over year, Latino players are still glaringly absent on the fields of our favorite schools. According to the 2015 Racial and Gender Report Card: College Sport, only about two percent of Division I football players were Latino in 2014. The majority of these players can be found on special teams taking care of the kicking and punting – which makes sense, since many played fútbol before they ever played football.
While fans usually only think of kickers when they hit a clutch field goal or when they miss one and become the scapegoat, it’s a role that doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. Kicking a football takes skill but also requires the mental strength to handle immense pressure. Meet five of the best punters and kickers in college football doing just that:
Diego Gonzalez, Colorado University
When Colorado needed a kicker, it went out and found itself one in Mexico. Gonzalez is an international transfer student from Monterrey Tech. Though he transferred in 2013, he didn’t take over the kicking duties full-time until 2015 when he had a shaky season converting only about 60 percent of his field goals. But there’s big potential in Gonzalez if he can can improve his accuracy from mid-range. Last season, he successfully converted two of his three attempts from 50 yards or longer. If he can consistently hit from that far out, he’ll have a career playing on Sundays.
Rigoberto Sánchez, University of Hawaii
Rigo Sánchez kicks and punts at Hawaii, which is not as common as you’d think. His versatility and skill makes him one of the best kickers in the country. Sanchez’s route to Division I football took three years, because after spending two years kicking for Butte College, he had to spend a year focusing on getting his academics in order. Once he got his opportunity at Hawaii, he took full advantage of it.
Eddy Pineiro, University of Florida
Though he’d never kicked a field goal in actual live football game, Eddy Pineiro received a scholarship at a top college football program. Now, he’s the star kicker for the Gators – after originally committing to Alabama. Though star kicker might sound like an oxymoron, the fact is that Florida fans have been crying out for a decent kicker after years of problems with that position.
And Pineiro, who has a Cuban father and a Nicaraguan mother, is more than just decent – despite once claiming not to know too much about football. “I just kick the ball and it goes in,” he explained. Pineiro, who went viral after booming a 77-yard field goal while practicing, attended ASA College in South Florida, but didn’t play football there or in high school. He could technically kick for Florida for four years, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he left for the NFL after just one.
Ricky Aguayo, Florida State University
Being the freshman who follows in the footsteps of a nearly automatic kicker picked in the second round of the NFL Draft is rough. It’s even rougher when that kicker is your older brother. But Ricky Aguayo is unfazed by the pressure of following Roberto and has hit the ground running at the collegiate level. Through two games he’s made all seven of his field goal attempts and 10 of his extra points. I guess it’s nothing when you’re a kicker with that much swag. (See above.)
Michael Carrizosa, San Jose State University
Michael Carrizosa’s one of the best punters in the country. Last year, he finished as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter. This year, he has been named to the preseason watch list for the award, and is one of the top contenders, although he will have to go for it without his biggest supporter. CBS Sports produced this touching video about his connection to his mother, who attended all of his games. Sadly, Carrizosa’s mother passed earlier this year.