INDIANAPOLIS––Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis hasn’t played in many cold-weather games in his lifetime, but he’s no stranger to adverse conditions.
Remember the images of Tim Tebow during his college days with the Gators when his white jersey was soaked with blood… err, red paint?
Sturgis was a freshman the year of that particular game, the team’s kickoff specialist back then. He recalls the typhoon conditions the game was played in.
“We played Florida State and it was practically a hurricane there was so much rain, the field was under water,” said Sturgis Thursday at the NFL Combine. “I think Tebow got all his pictures where he looked like a gladiator with the red all over him. That was probably the worst weather game I ever played in. I don’t believe it was that cold, but the rain was pretty bad.”
The Gators kicker knows that once he’s in the NFL, he’s going to be subject to a different type of occupational hazard. Even if he’s not drafted by the Green Bay Packers, he’ll eventually have to play in a northern climate at some point in time.
It’s really only a matter of time before Sturgis goes from playing in “The Swamp” to the “Frozen Tundra.”
“Obviously you’re going to have to,” said Sturgis. “You don’t get to stay in the South the whole time, but I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
The odds that Sturgis is selected by the Packers, however, isn’t exactly a long shot.
After a season in which Mason Crosby hit an NFL-worst 64 percent of his field goals, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back in the green and gold next year.
Of course, head coach Mike McCarthy was also very supportive of Crosby last season, almost to a fault, so it’s difficult to get a gauge on how the Packers feel about their kicking situation.
Maybe Crosby will be able to turn things around and get back to his 2011 level when he hit a career-high 86 percent of his field goals and scored 140 points. Still, there’s reason for concern.
Several of Crosby’s kicks weren’t even in the same area code as the goal posts last season, which was especially troubling.
The Packers haven’t brought in competition to Crosby in training camp for several season, a streak that is almost guaranteed to come to an end in 2013.
Whether the Packers choose to invest a draft choice into a kicker or go the undrafted route is anyone’s guess. But if they do select a specialist, Sturgis is a legitmate option.
And even though there’s a downside to playing in a warm-weather conference for a kicker, there’s also a benefit.
“I think the expectations are about as high in the SEC,” said Sturgis. “Every stadium you play in is probably between 70,000 and 100,000 people. And people take football pretty seriously in the South.”
Sturgis improved his field-goal percentage every season in college that he played a full year and was honored as a third-team Associated Press All-American as as senior. He made 24 of 28 field goals in 2012 and was a Lou Groza Award finalist.
It remains to be seen whether that will be good enough to get him a job with the Packers or any other team. After all, it’s a small fraternity of kickers in the NFL and not a very easy group to join.
The job interview begins this week when Sturgis will be performing in front of professional football scouts, special teams coaches and general managers at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“The margin for error is small because there’s only 32 teams that need your position in the NFL,” said Sturgis. “There’s 32 guys already that are on teams, and there’s probably 20 guys that are veterans that are trying to get back in. You’re definitely trying to prove yourself any time you step out in front of somebody.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.