When Arizona State head coach Todd Graham handed over the football kicker Zane Gonzalez booted to break the NCAA record for career field goals to the senior, a moment Gonzalez long dreamed about barely set in.
Friends and family members including Gonzalez's father flooded the kicker's phone with words of congratulations, allowing a player who now stands alone in college football history to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Yeah, he (Gonzalez's dad) left me a text,” Gonzalez said. “He actually already went back to sleep, he has work tomorrow, but it definitely is a relief now that it’s over, because we’re only halfway through the season, so we still got halfway to go.”
Gonzalez broke former Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins’ mark of 88 career made field goals on a 46-yard attempt in the fourth quarter to put ASU ahead 23-13.
After a three-field goal performance against UCLA in a 23-20 victory, Gonzalez’s holder, senior Matt Haack, and long snapper, Mitchell Fraboni, reflected on the historic milestone, which Gonzalez now has at least six more games to build upon.
“First off, his work ethic,” senior punter Matt Haack said when asked what makes Gonzalez so dependable. “He goes out there every day, even in practice he cares, he’s not just hitting kicks. What he does, he’s kicking that kick over and over again making it very meticulous, his routines and all of that stuff. And then, just like his mental side. He’s about solid mentally as any kicker out there, so I think that helps a bunch for him.”
Fraboni mentioned how his kicker’s work ethic sets him apart from the rest of the country’s competition.
“I’d say that he’s really dedicated to this entire process, and he takes pride in what he does and he makes sure that everything is perfect,” Fraboni said of Gonzalez’s tireless work ethic.
After nailing all three attempts against UCLA, Gonzalez is now 16-for-17 on the year, with his lone miss coming on a 50-plus yard attempt against Texas-San Antonio in week two.
Junior pass rusher Koron Crump and sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins coined and popularized the nickname of "Legatron" for Gonzalez a few weeks ago, and the senior has certainly lived up to that moniker through the first six weeks of the season as he is averaging 10 points scored per contest.
In the process of breaking Hopkins' record, Gonzalez also moved up other notable lists throughout the night.
He matched former ASU kicker Luis Zendajas’ record of consecutive games scoring a point with 45 straight.
The Texas native also moved into the sixth spot in all-time points scored in NCAA history. For kickers, he is second behind Hopkins, but only by an eight-point margin (Hopkins 466, Gonzalez 458).
The leader in points, former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, sits at 528 but with his current pace, ASU’s consistent specialist is still on pace to break the record. If Gonzalez keeps his current pace and kicks in a bowl game, he would pass Reynolds’ record by one point at 529.
“I think it’s just remarkable,” head coach Todd Graham said when asked about Gonzalez's record. “We’ve got a rich tradition here. You’re a place kicker? This is a pretty good place to come. I mean, I think there’s been a couple of people that have held that record that have kicked here. One, the weather’s always great. You have good conditions, but it means a lot to our program. For me personally, I’m 51 so I probably won’t have another opportunity to coach another young man that does that. I’m really proud of him, too.”
Gonzalez, who was also recruited by the likes of Wisconsin and Nevada, chose to play at ASU and signed with the program after National Signing Day during his senior year of high school.
In order to break Hopkins' record, Gonzalez needed consistency, longevity, and perhaps most importantly, an elite work ethic.
Not only has Gonzalez improved on his field goal efficiency, missing just one field goal and an extra point in the Sun Devils' first six games, Gonzalez has been able to eliminate opportunities for opposing kick returns to return the ball in play.
After Saturday's game, Graham recalled Gonzalez's freshman season, when Alex Garoutte handled kickoff duties because Gonzalez didn't have the leg to drive balls to the goal line, much less put them through the end zone.
“I remember recruiting Zane,” Graham said. “Going through that process in April, you know. It wasn’t like a high profile guy or anything. Coming in here, he couldn’t kick the ball past the 10-yard line, and now he kicks every one of them out of the end zone. He’s worked his tail off.”
Even though his decorated career with the Sun Devils will be coming to an end after this season, Gonzalez said breaking a national record is the perfect a great way to cap off his final year with the program.
“Honestly, it hasn’t even set in yet, but any time you can break a national record, it speaks volumes,” Gonzalez said. “Like I said, it’s not hit me yet but once it does it’s also a great accomplishment. Just a great way to go out senior year.”