Consistency Earns Ship For Chris Hetland

TAMPA --- He leads the team in scoring and with a couple of plays in Monday's Outback Bowl he will match the best season for a Florida kicker in the past ten years. And, he's done it all without the benefit of a scholarship. That's about to change, however, as the Florida Gators' most prominent and visible walkon has earned a scholarship from Coach Urban Meyer.

"I get my first check on January 6th," said Hetland, a fourth-year junior from Leesburg, Georgia, who has a team-high 70 points. "I will have money for books and room and board."

Hetland is the first University of Florida placekicker in the past ten years from out of state. After four years of paying out of state tuition --- three times higher than tuition paid by Florida residents --- Hetland and his parents are thrilled that he's earned the scholarship.

"They had a little more money to spend this Christmas," he said. "They are so happy. It is a relief for them."

He is 12 of 14 on field goal attempts this season (85.7 percent) and if he can go 2-2 against Iowa in the Outback Bowl, he can tie Jeff Chandler (87.5 percent in 1999) for the second best mark in Florida history. He is 34-36 on extra points this season and is working on a string of 30 in a row. He hasn't missed an extra point since the first half of the Louisiana Tech game back in September.

Consistency has been the key. Hetland has hit 5-5 on field goal attempts of 30-39 yards and 5-6 on attempts of 40-49 yards, helping him to turn a position that was questionable entering the season into one that is very, very solid. He hasn't tried a field goal longer than 49 yards this season but he is more than capable of nailing kicks from further out. His longest made field goal was 47 yards against Wyoming. During practice at the University of Tampa earlier in the week he was hitting from as far out as 57 yards.

"The team is excited and looking strong," he said. "We are approaching this as a normal game week. We know when it is time to have fun and when it is time to work hard."

Chris Hetland is a study in perseverance. He came to Florida four years ago and spent three years just waiting for a chance. He finally got an opportunity to show what he could do this year and made the most of the chance. He will be kicking for the Gators in 2006 without the worry of student loans or costing his parents too much money. That load off his shoulders might very well translate into a placekicker who is very, very confident.

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