Tuesday September 4, 2012Caleb Sturgis - Getting His Kicks In
By Megan Kramper, UF Communications
He may be one of the best kickers in the country entering the 2012 season, but University of Florida redshirt senior Caleb Sturgis knows that his football days might be numbered.
Possessing a recognizable name from the group of returning letterwinners for Gator fans, Sturgis emerged last season as one of the most decorated kickers ever to wear the Orange and Blue. A 2011 finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which honors the nation’s top placekicker, after becoming a semifinalist in 2009, Sturgis returned from a 2010 back injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt. The first-team All-SEC recipient was tabbed a first-team All-American by ESPN.com and earned second-team recognition by the Associated Press, CBSSports.com, Rivals, Sports Illustrated, Walter Camp and Yahoo! Sports.
Sturgis’ consistent right foot for the Gators was successful on all 31 of his point-after attempts and he went 22-for-26 (.846) on field goals. He hit on a pair of season-long 55-yard field goals in victories over Vanderbilt and Furman, which were just one yard shy of his personal best set in the defeat of Georgia in Jacksonville on Halloween in 2009 and was the third-longest kicks in the nation last year. Sturgis has connected on five field goals of 50-or-more yards in his career, the most in school history.
Already etching his name throughout UF’s record book, Sturgis occupies the second and third spots for field goals made in a season with 22 each in 2011 and 2009 – one shy of the record 23 made by Bobby Raymond in 1984. He could establish a Gator career record in field goals made by matching his performance from last season, as he aims to surpass the standard of 67 accomplished by Jeff Chandler from 1997-2001.
Regardless of where his name ends up on the ledger after this season, Sturgis just wants his legacy on the field to be that of a reliable team player.
“I just want to be remembered as someone who was always there and helping the team anytime we needed points, whether it was a field goal or point-after attempt,” Sturgis said.
With only a handful of kickers reaching the professional ranks, the fifth-year senior from St. Augustine has placed importance on academics. Not only did he excel in his undergraduate degree in sports management by registering a 3.32 grade-point average and being chosen to the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll on three occasions, Sturgis is currently on track to receive his master’s degree in management in December, where he boasts a 3.84 GPA.
“I think school is most important for my position because there are only 32 (kickers) that can go on and play in the NFL,” he acknowledged. “It’s a dream to continue to play but more likely what I’m doing in school will be what I’m going to make a living on in the future.”
With UF’s Summer B session continuing through the first week of fall camp, Sturgis, along with the rest of the Gators, had to manage time effectively in order to complete his two classes.
He admitted that while he’s developed a steady routine with his studies, he tries to mentor younger kickers on the team, as well as stressing the importance of keeping up with academics.
“I try to be a good role model for them and give them advice when they need it,” Sturgis said.
While Sturgis is entertaining thoughts of pursuing his professional dream once he earns a second degree from the University of Florida, he is also prepping for life away from the gridiron and The Swamp. He spent the summer as an intern for a bank in Jacksonville and has discussed an interest in finance as a future career destination.
“The nice thing for me will be finishing up in December so I will have options open whether I want to train and keep playing football or find a career. Having maintained a good grade-point average throughout my playing career has helped me keep up in the classroom.”
On the heels of his successful 2011 campaign, Sturgis is one of the most decorated players in this preseason for the Gators. He has been named to numerous preseason award lists, including the Lou Groza Award Watch List and Sports Illustrated’s Preseason All-American team and was also a Preseason First-Team All-SEC selection from the league’s coaches and the media.
Sturgis said the awards and honors, both past and present, have given him confidence in his ability as well as the knowledge that his coaches and players trust him in high-pressure situations.
“I think it’s neat anytime that you can get respect at this position.” Sturgis reflected. “I think it’s a good thing, you definitely want to be known in a good way. I have always wanted to be the type of person that when I’m called on, I’m there and able to perform.”
With his final season at UF about to commence versus Bowling Green, Sturgis said that although it feels almost a lifetime ago that he committed to being a Gator, he is ready for what this season and his future holds.
“I was thinking the other day that when I committed was back in 2007 and it feels like a long time. Some of these guys coming in here seem so young,” Sturgis said with a laugh. “But, this is my time, it’s time to go and leave Florida on the right track.”