Roberto Aguayo, the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, could’ve rewritten the record books in the NFL.
He could’ve been mentioned in the same breath as Justin Tucker, Lou Groza, Morten Andersen, and George Blanda once he hung up his cleats.
Alas, fate had other ideas.
While Aguayo took the college game by storm, his reputation took a massive hit in the pros because of his forgettable rookie season.
In the NFL, you only get one shot at glory.
Aguayo had his chance, but he couldn’t make the most of it.
His life story serves as a valuable lesson for aspiring gridiron warriors: when you get the chance, seize it for all its worth.
Roberto Jose Aguayo, Jr. was born to Roberto and Martina Aguayo in Mascotte, FL on May 17, 1994.
Aguayo is a second-generation Mexican-American whose family traces its roots to the town of Capellania.
His grandfather was a farmer while his grandmother was a housewife.
The less-than-desirable economic situation in Mexico prompted Aguayo’s father, Roberto, Sr., to forego his pro soccer career and migrate to the United States.
Back then, his goals were to send money to his family in Mexico and persuade his future children to get a college degree.
He was all of 18 years old when he traveled north and crossed the border to the United States in 1984.
Unfortunately, the United States border patrol deported him twice in the next year.
He remained unfazed and crossed the Rio Grande River over to the United States again in 1986.
— Univision (@Univision) October 17, 2016
Eventually, he became an undocumented migrant worker who worked the fields in Ohio and Florida.
Former president Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 paved the way for Roberto Aguayo, Sr. to earn permanent residency, per SI.com’s Jenny Vrentas.
He described his family’s American journey in an email to ESPN’s Jared Shanker in November 2014:
“I came to the United States looking for a better life because the economic circumstances in Mexico were very limited.”
“(Capellania) was very difficult because of a lack of important resources. At first, as a child, we had no electricity, water, transportation, and other things.”
For his part, Roberto, Jr. echoed his dad’s sentiments to SI.com:
“He came over illegally, and there are a lot of people who do that, but they do that for a better life.”
“There was no money over there. My uncle (living in Mexico) will work and make about $10 a day, and that’s not enough to support the family.”
“My dad wanted to have something better for my family.”
His dad’s journey to America was daunting and arduous, to say the least.
Despite his lack of swimming skills, he and his compatriots had to swim in the Rio Grande river.
His group also subsisted on low rations of water and corn tortillas during their journey, per Vrentas.
Roberto, Jr. told SI.com it was his dad’s resolve that eventually rubbed off on him as he grew up:
“That’s how we’ve come to grow up; we know what he has been through.”
“In situations when I am struggling in life or in class or football, I think if my dad could have made it through that, being close to death in many situations, I can get through it.”
His dad eventually got a job as a foreman who put in 50-hour weeks.
Roberto, Sr.’s efforts paid huge dividends: he earned American citizenship in 2004.
Despite the grueling hours at work, he made time to run five miles with his sons Roberto, Jr. and Ricky every Saturday.
— NFL en Español (@NFLEspanol) April 28, 2016
The younger Aguayo told Shanker he credits his famous leg strength to those days in his youth.
“I just wanted to hang by the pool with my friends, but he’d wake us up early, at six o’clock.”
“He’s out in the sun all day (at work), so I’m surprised he had the energy, and that motivated me.”
“When people ask me how I have such a strong leg and this ability, I go back to those days.”
His dad eventually signed him up for youth football, which is – in Shanker’s words – “a rite of passage.”
It didn’t take long for Roberto Jose Aguayo to showcase his fantastic kicking skills in both football and soccer.
According to Vrentas, Aguayo started his youth football career in Florida as an offensive guard.
When he reached the Pop Warner level, his coaches lined him and his teammates up so they can try kicking the PAT.
Eight-year-old Roberto Aguayo, Jr.’s first kick sailed between the uprights.
A kicker was born.
Back in the day, Aguayo pretended the football was a soccer ball.
He also patterned his kicking style to those of John Carney and David Akers, per SI.com.
The turn of events prompted his father to construct a hybrid soccer goal and field goal post in their backyard, per ESPN.
Training in both sports helped Roberto Aguayo, Jr. develop a lethal kicking leg as his football career blossomed over the years.
Aguayo eventually earned a spot on the South Lake Eagles roster as a place kicker.
When he was 15 years old, he saw future NFL kicker Cody Parkey doing 80-yard kickoffs with ease at a Kohl’s Camp in West Palm Beach, FL, per Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon.
Aguayo was impressed, to say the least.
— Max (@maxschneider24) May 30, 2015
He wasn’t too shabby himself.
When it was his turn to kick, he nailed a 79-yard kickoff.
“I was like, ‘Honestly, I didn’t know I was this good’,” he told Gagnon.
Aguayo eventually received an invitation to Kohl’s National Invitational Scholarship Camp in Wisconsin.
He picked up where he left off at West Palm Beach, embarrassing other kickers one or two years his senior.
Consequently, Kohl’s Kicking Camps declared Aguayo the nation’s No. 1 kicking prospect in 2010.
During his sophomore campaign, he drilled two 51-yard field goals for the Eagles.
The following year, he converted seven of eight field goal attempts as a high school junior.
His longest conversion that year was from 48 yards.
When Aguayo was a senior, he made it to the ESPNU 150 Watch List.
He was one of only three kickers in the nation to earn that distinction.
For their part, 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals, and Scout named him a three-star prospect.
Roberto Aguayo was about to make a name for himself in the college football world.
College Days At Florida State
Roberto Aguayo drew interest from many college football programs.
Among the teams interested in him were the Michigan Wolverines, LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks, UCLA Bruins, and Tennessee Volunteers.
However, the 6’1″, 195-lb. Aguayo decided to remain in-state.
He committed to the Florida State Seminoles on January 31, 2011.
Seminoles offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was part of Aguayo’s recruitment team,
“Coach Gran and the coaching staff are perfect to me,” he told TomahawkNation.com. “I think I will do well and learn a lot from them.”
FSU’s academic reputation was also a factor in Aguayo’s decision.
After redshirting in 2012, Aguayo became the ACC’s premier kicker the next two seasons.
It certainly didn’t take long for him to make his mark on the college football landscape.
During his redshirt freshman campaign, he set a new national record for a kicker with 157 points during the 2013 NCAA season.
He eclipsed the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ Quinn Sharp’s record from the year before by a solitary point.
Aguayo was so good he made 99.1 percent of his kicks (115 of 116) and outscored eight of the Seminoles’ opposition.
He also converted all 94 of his PATs and set a new NCAA record for most extra points in a season without missing.
Aguayo scored an incredible 14 points (including 11 PATs) in an 80-14 romp over the Idaho Vandals on November 23, 2013.
He continued his tear against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2013 ACC Championship Game two weeks later.
Aguayo scored nine points including six PATs in the 45-7 rout of Duke.
Florida State finished the regular season with an unblemished 13-0 mark.
Aguayo’s leg helped catapult the Seminoles to the BCS National Championship Game against the Auburn Tigers on January 6, 2014.
His 35-yarder in the first quarter helped Florida State edge Auburn, 34-31.
Aguayo made headlines when he won the Lou Groza Award at the end of his redshirt freshman season in 2013.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 13, 2013
He won 11 other accolades, including All-America First Team honors for The Associated Press, Walter Camp Football, USA TODAY, CBS Sports, and Lindy’s USA TODAY Sports.
Aguayo continued his tear during his redshirt sophomore campaign, nailing his first 14 field goal tries.
He went on to make 27 of his 30 field goal attempts and an incredible 55 PATs without a miss during the 2014 NCAA season.
Aguayo’s 90 percent kicking accuracy (minimum 20 field goals made) ranked him first in the nation that year.
He also led the ACC’s kickers in scoring.
Aguayo rewrote the record books for a kicker on October 4, 2014.
On that day, he scored a new school record 19 points in a 43-3 thrashing of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
That year, Aguayo told USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken he loved excelling in the gridiron limelight:
“There are some guys who are just rattled and can never really good and it sucks.”
“I like the big stage, I like being in big games. I just feel good like that’s where my zone is.”
“I’ve worked on it too in camps and high school to build up to where I’m at now. Some guys can do it at practice but can’t do it in games.”
Not Roberto Aguayo, though.
Since first donning FSU Garnet and Gold several years earlier, he had been money for the Seminoles’ special teams crew.
The Seminoles finished 13-1 in 2014.
They lost to the Oregon Ducks in the 2015 Rose Bowl, 59-13.
— ChopChat.com (@ChopChat_) October 29, 2014
Nonetheless, Roberto Aguayo earned consensus All-America and All-ACC First Team honors.
The 2015 NCAA season wasn’t a walk in the park for Roberto Aguayo, Jr.
He missed five field goals during his redshirt junior season.
Worse, a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets special teams player blocked his 56-yard field goal attempt in the game’s waning moments.
To compound matters, the Yellow Jackets recovered the loose football and returned it the other way for the game-winning touchdown.
Aguayo told Vrentas he charged the misfortune to experience:
“The first two seasons, they were kind of a breeze. I had never gone through an early miss in a season, or something like the Georgia Tech game, where I felt like a loss was my fault.”
“It was definitely eye-opening. But I’d rather it happen here than in the NFL. It was a year of growing and becoming more mature.”
Despite Aguayo’s lower field goal kicking accuracy, he made all of his 49 PAT tries during his redshirt junior season in 2015.
Florida State went 10-3 in 2015.
The Seminoles lost to the Houston Cougars in the 2015 Peach Bowl, 38-24.
As for Roberto Aguayo, he became just the second FSU football player to earn three First Team All-American honors at season’s end.
The great Deion Sanders first pulled off the incredible feat some 27 years earlier.
He suddenly contemplated on leaving Florida State early so he could play in the National Football League.
Aguayo met with his head football coach Jimbo Fisher thrice to talk about the possibility.
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 11, 2014
Aguayo decided to stay in school and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology in December 2015.
Consequently, he fulfilled one of his father’s lifelong dreams.
The bigger question loomed: was Roberto Aguayo ripe for the picking for the NFL?
It sure seemed like it.
Fisher told Vrentas the key to Aguayo’s success as a kicker is physical balance that produces a powerful and consistent technique every time he takes the field.
For that, Aguayo gives credit to his dad for his soccer background.
However, Fisher also told SI.com mental balance set Aguayo apart from other kickers.
Alas, Roberto Aguayo would fail in that regard when he joined the professional ranks.
Just like his transition from high school to college, Roberto Aguayo didn’t have to leave the Sunshine State when he turned pro.
That’s because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the 59th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Bucs won just six games during the 2015 NFL season.
They also hadn’t tasted postseason football for eight straight years.
The Buccaneers’ kickers, particularly Kyle Brindza, didn’t get the job done.
He missed six of his 12 field goal attempts the previous season.
Could Roberto Aguayo’s dynamite kicking leg help Tampa Bay break through in 2016?
The Bucs sure hoped so: they traded two draft choices to the Kansas City Chiefs in order to pluck Aguayo from the draft pool.
Consequently, he became the first kicker drafted in the second round since the New York Jets drafted Mike Nugent 47th overall 11 years earlier.
Aguayo signed a four-year, $4.052 million deal with $1.595 million in guaranteed money.
Regrettably, he failed to live up to the massive hype.
Aguayo was just a shell of his deadly self at Florida State: he missed nine of his 31 field goal attempts during his rookie year with the Bucs in 2016.
Aguayo’s 71.1 conversion rate was the worst among NFL kickers that year, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
To compound matters, he also missed two PATs during the 2016 NFL season.
In a cutthroat business such as the National Football League, Aguayo’s performance was way off the mark.
The Bucs improved to 9-7 but missed the postseason yet again.
— Final 4 Sports (@F4_sports) August 12, 2017
To nobody’s surprise, Tampa Bay released Roberto Aguayo after just one season.
Aguayo missing a PAT and a 47-yarder in the Bucs’ preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on August 12, 2017 was the last straw.
The $750,000 in guaranteed money the Bucs gave to veteran kicker Nick Folk prior to the 2017 NFL season was an indication Aguayo was skating on thin ice.
Worse, Aguayo’s release from the Bucs was shown on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
Then-Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter told NFL.com’s Kevin Patra that Aguayo didn’t meet the team’s expectations:
“Anytime you have to let a draft pick go, it’s not something that you look forward to doing, but it’s a production business.”
“We’ve been saying it: it’s unfortunate because Roberto is a good kid. He is trying to do the right thing; but again, it’s a production business.”
“I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity and he’s just got to learn from this and move on.”
Koetter’s hunch was spot on.
The following day, the Chicago Bears claimed him off waivers.
Unfortunately, they released him just three weeks later.
The Carolina Panthers signed him to their practice squad on October 25, 2017.
Aguayo even apologized to then-Panthers head coach Ron Rivera for nailing the game-winning kick against Carolina on October 10, 2016.
The Bucs squeaked by the Panthers, 17-14.
Shortly after Carolina signed Aguayo to its practice squad, he told ESPN’s David Newton laying off social media did him a lot of good after his release from Tampa Bay:
“It’s tough. You try to block as much as you can. You don’t go on social media. It’s just a waste of time.”
“At the end of the day, you control what you do. You believe in yourself…It has to come within.”
“Everyone can believe in you, or everyone can tell you you’re not good enough.”
“But at the end of the day it’s what you tell yourself.”
Unfortunately, Aguayo’s misfortunes continued.
The Panthers released him just one-and-a-half months later.
— USA NewsChannels (@USANewsChannels) January 10, 2018
The Los Angeles Chargers signed Aguayo to a reserve/future contract on January 10, 2018.
However, not even Roberto Aguayo’s spotless record during the preseason (three-for-three on field goals and six-for-six on PATs) could save his job.
He eventually lost the battle for the Chargers’ kicker position to Caleb Sturgis.
As for the beleaguered Aguayo, Los Angeles released him on September 1, 2018.
He spent the next two years in limbo as a free agent.
Suddenly, Aguayo received a new lease on his football life from the New England Patriots.
Bill Belichick and Co. signed him to their practice squad on December 26, 2020.
The Pats released him six months later.
Fate had thwarted Roberto Aguayo’s NFL comeback attempt yet again.
In a revealing interview with Bleacher Report’s Mirin Fader in 2019, Aguayo gave indications he suffered from the yips (an unexplainable loss of specific abilities among athletes) during his time with the Bucs.
Aguayo compared his situation to golfer Max Homa’s, per Fader:
“It’s like this podcast I heard Max on. He said he got his PGA Tour card taken away twice. He missed, like, 15 out of 17 cuts.”
“He told a reporter that, ‘When I was around these guys in tournaments, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there.”
“‘I felt like my game wasn’t good enough to be there. I just felt like I was a kid among men, like, why am I here? I suck.'”
“So, I don’t want to say it was the same thing, but kind of.”
As the misses in Tampa Bay piled up, Aguayo sank into a deep, dark depression.
According to Fader, Aguayo didn’t trust several therapists the Bucs hired to help him.
He also felt everyone around him was being too judgmental.
Roberto Aguayo went from one of the best college kickers ever to getting cut by four NFL teams.
Can he overcome the infamous yips?
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 28, 2019
He eventually withdrew and became more of a recluse.
Aguayo, an avid golfer, didn’t find satisfaction on the green anymore.
The NCAA’s kicking phenom had hit an impenetrable wall in the National Football League.
Roberto Aguayo married his college sweetheart Courtney on July 8, 2017.
They reside in Jupiter, FL with their toy poodles Groza (named after the Lou Groza Award Aguayo won in 2013) and Stella.
Aguayo finished an internship with PGA of America in 2019, per Fader.
His younger brother Ricky was a Florida State Seminoles place kicker from 2016 to 2019.
Roberto Aguayo is a Christian.
He discussed his faith with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ website in 2014:
“Going all in for Christ means that in everything I do I glorify His name.”
“My greatest fear is to offend our Heavenly Father, but my greatest joy is to honor Him.”
Aguayo is the founder of the RA Kicking Academy, a football camp for aspiring place kickers.
— Wayne McGahee III (@WayneMcGaheeIII) April 13, 2018
He described how his life experiences motivated him to take on his latest endeavor, per RAKickingAcademy.com:
“In this day and age as a specialist, having only physical talent is not enough. We are required to handle the highest levels of responsibility, criticism, pressure, and adversity.”
“I have gathered every tool, every experience, and every resource that allowed me to take the next step in my journey and have used them to create the Roberto Aguayo Kicking Academy.”
Despite having an underwhelming NFL career, Roberto Aguayo’s commitment to develop future special teams stars bodes well for the game’s future.