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Zane Gonzalez brings big leg, plenty of accolades to Browns kicker competition

Posted May 16, 2017

7th round pick from Arizona State won Lou Groza Award

Zane Gonzalez wasn’t always a threat from long distance. The once-rail thin kicker didn’t make a single one of his four attempts from 50 yards during his first three seasons at Arizona State.

The fruits of Gonzalez’s hard work in the weight room were borne in a record-setting way during his senior season. Seven of Gonzalez’s 23 made field goals were from more than 50 yards, including a whopper from 59 -- and it had a few yards to spare -- against Colorado.

Gonzalez, whom the Browns selected in the 7th round of this year’s NFL Draft, doesn’t credit a change in technique for the surplus of long-distance makes. He just got stronger.

“At the beginning of college, I was a little bit of a weaker kicker,” Gonzalez said. “I hit the weight room after not hitting it before in my life.”

Gonzalez began his Arizona State career at 140 pounds. These days, as he embarks on a competition with Cody Parkey to become Cleveland’s starting kicker, Gonzalez is just a shade over 200 pounds.

Gonzalez, though, prides himself on more than just his big leg.

Even without making a 50-yarder through his first three seasons, he was one of college football’s best, connecting on 73 of his 91 attempts. This past year, he was just as good from all distances, going 23-of-25 with his only two misses coming from 50 .

His yearlong consistency and newfound big leg helped him land college football’s top honor for kickers, the Lou Groza Award. He finished his career with the most field goals (96) and points scored by a kicker (494) in FBS history.

“We feel very comfortable that this guy brings the characteristics that we want in our kicker,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He had an outstanding career at Arizona State. He will come in and compete.”

The job won’t be easily earned.

Gonzalez will go head to head with Cody Parkey, who finished 2016 on a high note after a bumpy beginning. After missing three field goals in his Browns debut, Parkey connected on 17 of his final 19 attempts, including six from 40 .

Parkey, a former Pro Bowler, is 25 and entering his fourth NFL season.

“We feel good about our kicker here now, but I don’t think you can have too much competition anywhere on our football team,” Jackson said. “The thing that I love that we are doing is that we are adding players that are on our board at the right time for us. That is most important. He was there. There was an opportunity for us to take another guy to compete, and we did that.”

Gonzalez won Arizona State’s kicking job as a freshman, but little came easy for the Deer Park, Texas, native. A zero-star recruit, Gonzalez, who mulled playing soccer at the junior college level, didn’t receive his offer from the Sun Devils until a month and a half after National Signing Day.

Gonzalez missed two field goals in his Arizona State debut but hit his stride shortly thereafter, making 18 in a row at one stretch. He didn’t let up the rest of his career, and it’s why he was one of just a few at his position to be drafted.

“Once I got my foot in the door,” Gonzalez said, “all I could do is just go to work.”

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