THE AGUAYO DILEMMA
Oh the irony....
This week you had two of college football's all time greatest players, arguably the most impactful at their respective positions across the street from each other.
Just a few days later both are out of the NFL.
One was Tim Tebow who has been out of the game for years, but admirably fighting the good fight to live his second dream of reaching the Major Leagues. The former Heisman Trophy winner was playing in Tampa for the Port St Lucie Mets, the club's High A minor league club.
Across the street from one of the best college quarterbacks of all time was arguably the best NCAA kicker ever in Roberto Aguayo who was hanging on to his football career by the hair of his chinny chin chin before the Bucs first preseason game, but after a disastrous debut, Aguayo is now out too.
These two stories illustrate how hard it is to make it in the NFL, but for Tebow and Aguayo the reasons why are much broader than their proximity this week.
Tebow didn't have the arm or the accuracy to make it at the next level---with Aguayo it all appears to be mental. He's not hurt, he's still striking the ball well--he's simply not making the kicks.
"The more mental, the more he starts thinking about it, that's the worst thing he can do," says former Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica. The best kicker in franchise history has tried to console Aguayo, but remains careful to pick his spots and not hover over the second year Buc, letting him know he is there only when Aguayo needs him.
The man they once called "Automatica," knows Aguayo needed to block out all the expectations that came with his success in college and being a high draft pick for Tampa Bay.
"Forget about the 2nd round and what all the people are talking about," Gramatica said. "Go back to the fundamentals, go back to what he did in college, cause it worked."
It sure did where think about this---Aguayo missed an extra point in the Bucs preseason opener at Cincinnati---at Florida State, he never missed an extra point his entire career. A remarkable 198 straight.
Aguayo agrees he needs to go back to his roots. In fact, he told me earlier in camp he needs to go back before his college days, back to when he first fell in love with kicking as a young teenager at South Lake High School in Groveland Florida.
"Just going back to the younger days (when you didn't have to) worry about really what you had to do," Aguayo told me early in camp. "Just go out there and do what you love, go out there and kick the ball."
Sounds simple but for Aguayo things grew much too complicated between the ears--you could see it on his face after missing his second kick in the Bucs first preseason game---a 47 yarder where it was clear Head Coach Dirk Koetter tried to give his kicker every chance to redeem himself and make this team.
I agreed with Jason Licht's decision to roll the dice and draft Aguayo in the second round. We are both in the minority, especially these days---but if you have a chance to draft a unique talent who can start at one position for you for a decade---it's worth a shot--even if it's a kicker.
But Koetter made it clear in this camp, he wanted the most highly contested battle in Bucs camp decided sooner than later. Veteran Nick Folk hardly hurt his chances by drilling his only attempt from 45 yards out. The Bucs couldn't hold on to the potential of Aguayo with the team boasting as much potential heading into a season in over a decade.
Koetter sending Aguayo out late sent a message--we know what we have in Folk---can Aguayo respond in the clutch?
“I mean, it’s a simple process. You’re a kicker in the NFL – inside 50 yards you’ve got to make your kicks," Koetter said earlier this week. " I’m not being a hard-ass or anything, that’s just what it is. That’s what it is in this league. They know it, I know it, everyone here knows it. It is what it is.”
Tebow Time is over in the NFL---across the street the clock rand out in Tampa Bay on one of the NCAA's greatest kicking talents.
Maybe Aguayo will thrive on a new team where he's not the second round pick and the expectation level will be lower---he knows what his mindset must be moving forward.
"You're gonna make some and you're gonna miss some," Aguayo told me early in camp. " You just have to go out there excited and have fun."
The fun is over with the Bucs for Aguayo---not many applauded his draft selection but few would have ever predicted his Tampa Bay tenure would be one and done.