AUBURN, Ala. — One Auburn player clutched the main podium in the interview room at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night, just a few minutes after a close rivalry win in which he was responsible for every scoring play his team had.
Another Auburn player walked past him, weaving through the massive amount of reporters, TV cameras and voice recorders lunging around the main podium. The second player had just finished his interviews in the back of the room, where he sat on a plastic chair.
As the second player made his exit, he loudly yelled that the first Tiger was “The G.O.A.T.!” — the greatest of all-time.
One of those players was the starting quarterback. The other one was the kicker. But their roles were reversed from what is normally expected inside a college football press conference. On this night, the kicker was the high-scoring hero, and the quarterback was his hype man.
“When we go to kick a field goal, I don’t even look at it,” Auburn quarterback Sean White said after Auburn’s 18-13 victory over LSU. “I know it’s going to be good. I know that I’m just going to look up and see 3 points. That’s just how it is.”
Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson’s 6 field goals made up all 18 points the Tigers needed to knock off their bitter SEC West rivals from Baton Rouge. He drilled three 29-yarders, a 31-yarder, a 37-yarder and a 51-yarder, improving to 12 of 12 on field goals this season.
Carlson’s 6 field goals tied the Auburn single-game record set in 1982 and created a nickname for the upset victory that went viral on social media.
Can we call this game the Six Kicks? #Legatron
— Evil Cam Newton (@evil_cam_newton) September 25, 2016
2013: Kick Six
2016: Six Kicks https://t.co/xuNvQPnPNl
— Christian Daniel (@heyitsmeCD) September 25, 2016
“I’ve done it 100 times, thousands of times in practice,” Carlson said. “So for me, that’s kind of the mentality I take. The snapper, the holder, the line protecting me — everyone does such a great job in practice and it’s just about carrying over. Obviously a lot of opportunities today, and when coach calls on me I have to deliver.”
Carlson definitely delivered against LSU. An average college football kicker might’ve slipped up on one of the short-range kicks or missed the 51-yarder he boomed in the first quarter. After all, LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye missed one from 51 yards in the first half after Carlson drilled his.
But Carlson is far beyond average, especially in the eyes of his head coach.
“Daniel is the best kicker in college football. I think he confirmed that tonight,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “He had a 51-yard field goal, and he had some pressure kicks in the fourth quarter. Those are the hardest ones, I don’t care how far it is.
“He also kicked every kick off in the end zone. We were worried about their returners. He is a huge weapon and he came through tonight.”
While Auburn’s offense continues to try to solve its long-running dilemma of turning red-zone trips into touchdowns, Carlson has given supreme confidence to his teammates on offense.
“It’s automatic,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “It’s funny to say, but when you think about it from offensive standpoint, all we have to do is just get on our side of the field and we know we’ll at least make a field goal. … When you have that kind of a kicker, you know you literally have three points every time.”
Carlson tries to take all the praise from his teammates and the mounting hype for the Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best college football kicker each year, in stride.
But the one nicknamed “Legatron” wishes the teammates who say they don’t even watch him kick field goals because they know they’re going through the uprights every time actually turned around a few times.
“I’d prefer they watch, because that’s the one moment I get to kind of shine,” Carlson said. “But that’s great that they trust me and that I’ve earned that.”
White said he would get some high-quality face time with his All-American-caliber kicker, though.
Before White got up from his chair in the back and declared Carlson to be the “G.O.A.T.,” he was asked when an offensive player was going to buy Carlson a nice dinner. The quarterback took charge and made tentative plans to take his star kicker to one of downtown Auburn’s higher-end restaurants.
“I need to tomorrow, man,” White said with a laugh. “I need to take him to Hamilton’s.”