AUBURN — Daniel Carlson was reminded a few weeks ago that one way to ensure more votes for the Lou Groza Award was remembering to vote for himself.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission has made it a point to remind the Auburn senior place-kicker to vote for himself after he failed to do so in each of the last two years for the award. According to the rules, each of the three finalists for the award are encouraged to vote in the process among about 300 other sportswriters, former winners, NFL kickers and coaches. And of course, unbeknownst to Carlson until this season, they’re encouraged to write their own name on the ballot.
“They told me to do it last year, because last year I guess I didn’t know that I could’ve voted for this past year after going the first time as a finalist,” Carlson said on Nov. 21. “I didn’t vote last year, so maybe I lost by one vote and that’s my fault, who knows?”
Carlson said he was surprised to be nominated for a third season in a row because one could make the argument that he’s been less than accurate in comparison to the elite bar of his place-kicking in his sophomore and junior season.
“Just looking at the numbers and stuff of some of the kickers from across the country (and) it’s a huge honor,” Carlson said. “It’s fun to go back and get to spend some time with the people that put it on and just to get to know a couple of other kickers who have been really successful this year.”
Despite his own self-criticism, Carlson’s head coach has said each of the last three seasons that he’s fortunate enough to turn to who he has called “the best kicker in college football.”
“Daniel is one of our team leaders. He’s earned that, and he has respect from both sides of the football and the coaches,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said on Oct. 7 after Carlson broke the SEC all-time scoring record. “He’s not looked at just as a kicker on our team. He’s one of our leaders and one of our spokespersons. I can’t say enough good things about Daniel Carlson as a person, but he is a super competitor. You could put him at wide receiver, and I believe he could be an incredible wide receiver. He’s got that mentality.”
Carlson has made 21 of his 28 field goal attempts this season, including four from beyond 50 yards and the native of Colorado Springs, Colo., is 51 of 51 on extra point attempts. His current streak of 195 consecutive PATs made is both an Auburn and a Southeastern Conference record. Throughout his career, Carlson has connected on 13 field goals at 50 yards or longer, which is a school record, and is currently second all-time in career field goal percentage on those type of kicks.
Carlson is second all-time in NCAA history with 90 career field goals made and holds 13 Auburn kicking records. The only difference to Carlson’s trip to Atlanta this week for the College Football Awards at the College Football Hall of Fame for the presentation is he might be able to bring his fiancée Katherine with him on this trip. Carlson, who already got his degree in marketing this past summer, got engaged in July.
Carlson is one of three finalists along with Utah State sophomore Dominik Eberle and Utah junior Matt Gay.
Gay was a walk-on in preseason camp this August after being a soccer player at Utah Valley for the two seasons before leaving the program to do his required LDS church mission. Gay, who was placed on scholarship in October, started the season as the backup kicker but has gone 27-for-31 on field goal attempts including the second-longest field goal in program history — a 56-yard kick against San Jose State.
Eberle, who is originally from Germany but played high school football at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif., has made 16 of 18 field goals this season including a long of 52 against San Jose State this season. Eberle is 5 of 6 from 40 yards or beyond this season and has 33 touchbacks on 63 kickoff attempts.