GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Following Florida’s season opener, coach Jim McElwain shared the story of how rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro was so excited after a field goal that he forgot from which side of the field he was supposed to kickoff.
Well, McElwain had an even better story Saturday night about his kicker.
“Here’s a classic now. These are ones where you kind of, this will be part of the book,” McElwain said. “Eddy was so excited — you know, the last time he didn’t know what end to kick from out there on the kickoff — he forgot that he had to kickoff after making that one (Saturday). So we had to go grab him from over there where all those guys stand, you know? How about that. I love him. He’s great.”
The fans love Pineiro too.
The chants of “Eddy, Eddy, Eddy” have been a regular feature in The Swamp this season, and the redshirt-sophomore newcomer has delivered while connecting on 9-of-12 field goal attempts this fall, including long kicks of 48, 49, 53 and 54 yards.
The 53-yarder came early in the second quarter of No. 18 Florida’s 40-14 win Saturday over Missouri, and it came after Pineiro missed an earlier 32-yard attempt.
Building off McElwain’s entertaining account of the moments after that long kick, Pineiro told the story from his perspective.
“So basically, here’s how it goes down. I went, I hit my 53-yarder, everybody’s screaming and stuff. So I go and I’m there on the sidelines, trying to get my team going and go to the players and try to get them hyped up and get them going. Try to bring some energy,” he said. “And by the time you know it, I’ve got to kickoff and I’m like a minute late. So I just ran out there sprinting as fast as I can out there.”
Pineiro later added a 24-yard field goal, and his nine makes this season are already more than Florida had all of last year while going a collective 7-of-17 on field goal attempts.
Pineiro is also the first Gators kicker to make 2 field goals of at least 50 yards in a season since Caleb Sturgis had 3 in 2012.
Just as encouraging as his long range, though, has been his continued poise and ability to shake off the few misses he has had.
Before that first kick Saturday, he hadn’t missed since going 1-for-3 on field goals in a Week 2 win over Kentucky.
“That’s part of kicking. Nobody’s perfect and it’s about how you bounce back, to see what type of kicker I really am,” he said. “… It’s kind of hard when you miss a short (32)-yard field goal and then come out and go, ‘Oh my God, now I have to hit a 53. If not, that will be my second miss of the game.’ But I think I did pretty good versus that.”
That would explain his unbridled excitement after that kick.
In fairness to Pineiro, the “Eddy” chants were faint if present at all before he missed that first kick Saturday, as fans were slow filing into the stands with rain pouring down in the first quarter.
Overall, though, he said he no doubt has fed off the crowd support this year.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. Who doesn’t like their name getting chanted when they come out, but yeah, it feels pretty cool for a kicker. You never see that,” he said.
It is quite unique.
Florida special teams coordinator Greg Nord, who started his coaching career in 1979, commented on that last week.
“I actually coached a Lou Groza Award winner (Art Carmody at Louisville in 2006). But nobody ever chanted his name. Most of them you don’t even know their name,” Nord said.
For that matter, Nord joked that he might well have been the first one to start chanting Pineiro’s name, after enduring the frustrations that came from the kicking game last year.
He also recounted the story of identifying Pineiro as a recruit. As has been well told, the former soccer player from Miami had never attempted a field goal in an actual game at any level. But his booming leg had drawn plenty of attention, and he ultimately would flip his commitment from Alabama to Florida.
“I started the Eddy chant when Mac took the plane down to recruit him,” Nord quipped this week during an appearance on ‘Gator Talk’ with McElwain. “He’s a fun guy to watch. It’s a funny story. … We found him out there early, we all come in and say here’s the guys we’d like to get, this is our top choice and show the film. And Mac says, ‘You got any game film?’
“We’re showing him out in a park. Actually, we watched the tape of him kicking the ball in a park. His dad was holding for him. So he came to camp, we got to see him in camp and the great ones you don’t have to watch them kick. You walk into the tunnel and you actually hear the ball hit.”