University of Florida

This player followed Dan Mullen to Florida. And he was a key in the Gators’ win Saturday

Florida place kicker Evan McPherson (19) watches after kicking a field goal against Charleston Southern Sept. 1, 2018.
Florida place kicker Evan McPherson (19) watches after kicking a field goal against Charleston Southern Sept. 1, 2018. AP

Evan McPherson sprints onto the football field paying little attention to the atmosphere.

The booming roar of the crowd has hardly any effect on the Gators’ kicker as he gets set with the intent of sending the football through the yellow uprights with the swift motion of his leg.

It’s not Ben Hill Griffin Stadium that McPherson pictures when he takes his place on the field. He’s in a realm of his own. One that sends him to his backyard, to a place of comfort that plays background to his kicking warm-ups.

“It’s like a zone,” McPherson said. “You know all these people are screaming your name or cheering for you but you can’t hear it or see it until the ball goes through the uprights.”

It’s a mindset that appears to be working for the freshman kicker, who has made eight of his first nine field-goal attempts.

McPherson was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday after he kicked field goals of 21 and 39 yards in the Gators’ 13-6 win against Mississippi State. He also took on kickoff responsibilities tallying four kickoffs for 250 yards with an average of 62.5 yards per kick.

The Fort Payne, Alabama, native has made an impact since signing with this Gators’ program in 2017. McPherson had committed to then-Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, and he followed Mullen to Florida.

“I had a really good relationship with coach Mullen,” he said.

Mullen brought McPherson to Florida to succeed former kicker Eddy Pineiro, who left for the NFL after becoming the most accurate kicker in UF history after just two seasons — he was 38 of 43 in his career.

McPherson had no intention of idling in Pineiro’s shadow, however. He set out to build a legacy of his own, and his first game as a Gator featured field goals of 21 and 31 yards against Charleston Southern on Sept. 1.

“It was really special,” McPherson said. “Just to finally get it and look up and see it go through. It was a special moment for me to get that one under my belt.”

McPherson’s only miss of the season came in Week 2 in the team’s 27-16 loss to Kentucky in what was one of the most controversial calls of the Gators’ 2018 season. A 36-yard attempt by McPherson was ruled no good but had appeared to cross inside the left upright.

“I’ve watched it a pretty good amount of times,” McPherson said of the questionable play. “I mean, I always say it’s good but I let that one go.”

After his leg powered the Gators to victory in Starkville, McPherson continues to confirm something that Mullen preaches constantly: special teams are critical.

And when McPherson hurries onto the field in the Gators upcoming battle with LSU on Saturday, all eyes in the Swamp will be on him, but he’ll block it out, get into his zone and do what’s worked for him so far this season.

“I’m really pleased with him. I love him,” Mullen said. “During recruiting, we felt there’s a good chance he’d be the guy. You know with his talent level … He’s a pretty cool cat out there.”

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