Florida’s struggles on the football field this season spanned nearly every position group on the team, but one of the biggest drops in production from 2012 was the kicking department. The Gators struggled to replace two-time All-American Caleb Sturgis, using three kickers that combined to go just 12 of 22 on field goals for the season. It was a sharp drop-off from last year when Sturgis connected on a school record 24 of 28 field goals as a senior.
Sturgis’s record-setting final season earned him a spot as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award (given annually to the nation’s top kicker), and he was a fifth round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Sturgis was the first kicker taken and he was the only rookie kicker to earn a starting job in the league this season after beating out veteran Dan Carpenter in training camp.
“I always tried to look at the competition in a positive light,” said Sturgis. “I knew he was a really good kicker, so I thought it was a great opportunity to better myself and try to even learn a little bit from what he did. I knew it was going to be a good time to really see the level of competition in the NFL overall.”
Sturgis was officially named starter after a perfect preseason where he went 9-9 on field goals, including a 58-yarder against Jacksonville. Many rookie kickers struggle in their first year adjusting to the pressure of being an NFL kicker, but Sturgis handled the transition almost seamlessly.
“I think the atmosphere of playing at Florida (helped prepare me). I don’t think you get a better atmosphere anywhere else, whether it be in college or in the pros. Expectations are very high, and I think that makes the transition pretty easy to the NFL where the expectations are high as well,” said Sturgis.
Sturgis finished his career at Florida’s as the school’s all-time leader in both field goals made (70) and field goals attempted (88). Sturgis was the Gators’ starting kicker since his sophomore season, a luxury that’s a lot tougher to come by in the NFL.
“I came in and really had to compete here in my first year. In college if you’re able to win a job it’s kind of locked in a little bit more, in the pros there’s always other people there trying to get in,” said Sturgis.
Sturgis has been solid so far in his rookie season, connecting on 25 of 33 field goals and making all 29 of his extra point attempts. As the season heads into its final weeks, Sturgis will look to be more consistent as Miami (7-6) tries to make a late playoff push.
“From the beginning of the year our goal has always been to make the playoffs, and that’s definitely still in reach of us right now,” said Sturgis. “Personally, my goal is to just help the team out more. I think I’ve missed some kicks that could have really helped the team, and from here on out it’s really a focus on just making the next one every time.”
Sturgis will get his next chance to contribute when the Dolphins host the New England Patriots on Sunday.