March 26, 2013
By Ryan Syrkus
The kick was up, it looked good, and through the uprights it went. Dustin Hopkins had set yet another national record with a 25 yard field goal during the third quarter of the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. The senior kicker from Houston now sat alone as the only person to kick 88 career field goals in FBS history. On the side lines, the entire team watched, including the man who would soon replace Hopkins as the Florida State placekicker, Roberto Aguayo.
Aguayo had spent the entire season watching Hopkins make history. It seemed like a new record was falling with each swing of the golden shoes Hopkins wore: all-time points leader in school history and the ACC, all-time FBS points leader as a kicker, eventually finishing as the third all-time in FBS points among any player.
Hopkins could do no wrong. As the one man wrecking ball kept getting all the recognition, Aguayo patiently waited, watching, learning, in the long shadow which was being cast.
“A lot of people say ‘you have big shoes to fill’ and Dustin’s this and Dustin’s that and he’s a good kicker,” said Aguayo. “Watching him and dealing with the pressure, I’ve learned a lot to keep myself composed. He’s told me a lot of stuff and I feel like next year when I come in, I’ve already played a year.”
Still, the freshman kicker from Mascotte, Fla. never once doubted himself or his ability while on the sidelines.
“[Watching Hopkins] makes me want to work harder just to break those records and to be better than him,” Aguayo said. “I want people to watch me play on the field. I want to do well. I want to be up to the expectations of which Florida State recruited me for.”
Similar to Hopkins, Aguayo was highly recruited out of high school. For Hopkins, the strong right leg landed him as the consensus top-rated kicker in the country. As for Aguayo, he was named the nation’s top kicking prospect at age 16 by Kohl’s Kicking Camps and one of only three kickers to make the ESPNU 150 Watch List for 2012.
Aguayo would make his mark as a student at South Lake. As a former soccer player, Aguayo was set for new challenges and turned to football. He would make 7-of-8 field goals his junior season with the longest coming from 48 yards. Just a year earlier, Aguayo hit two field goals of 51 yards a piece. The powerful leg continued in practice with shots coming from upwards of 63 yards. At one point, his high school coach considered him as an offensive weapon and the best high school kicker he had coached since UF’s Caleb Sturgis, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist in 2009 and a finalist in 2011, honoring the best collegiate placekicker in the nation.
Not only was Aguayo a highly recruited kicker, he also came in as the 68th-best punter in the nation according to Kohl’s. The Seminoles would eventually be selected over other prestigious programs such as Tennessee, UCLA, LSU, Arkansas, and Michigan.
Even with the extra attention placed on the records, Hopkins was able to find time to help guide his replacement moving forward into the spotlight.
“I was telling Roberto to realize what he represents,” Hopkins said. “When you become a player that plays consistently on a huge team like Florida State and has the national spotlight, there is always a magnifying glass on you.”
With the extra advice, Aguayo seems ready to step up for the occasion while still understanding that he is about to try and tame a completely different beast which he has yet to face.
“In college it’s different,” Aguayo said on the transition from high school. “You don’t have your parents here to watch you do stuff yourself. It’s just your will to work hard. It’s putting that extra work in, that extra film in and the extra camps in to get better. It’s your drive now. If you want to be the best, you need to put in extra.”
From what Hopkins has witnessed firsthand this past season, there is little doubt that Aguayo has the potential to become one of the greats.
“I’m confident; he’s a great guy,” Hopkins said. “I’m also confident in his abilities. I would not be surprised if he shows up to an award show three times or four times, who knows? He’s so talented.”
While staying confident himself, Aguayo agreed with Hopkins in the goals he ultimately is striving for.
“Lou Groza [Award] is in the picture,” said Aguayo on his goals. “[I want to] be a good kicker for the team, making game winning field goals, and just being team first. I just do my job and go out there and kick. When I was young I looked up to Sebastian [Janikowski] and [Graham] Gano and now I’m in that position to possibly be better than them.”
Although Hopkins does not want to see competition reach his records, he has openly welcomed Aguayo with friendly competition.
“I told him today ‘obviously I don’t want you to break [the records], but I want you to do well just because I like you,’” Hopkins jokingly said. “People don’t want to see any of their records get broken, but if they are, I would love for it happen from a guy from this program.”