During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.

Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.

“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”

Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.

“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”

Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.

“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”

Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.

“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”

Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.

“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.

Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.

When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.

“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”

Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.

“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”

Anthony Fera made 20 of 22 field goals and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, while kicking for Texas this season. Now, Fera prepares for the NFL draft where he is expected to be a late round pick. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

It’s no anomaly seeing a Texas placekicker in the NFL. 

Justin Tucker was named first-team All-Pro this season for the Baltimore Ravens.

Phil Dawson holds the Cleveland Browns’ franchise record for most field goals made — more than Hall of Famer Lou Groza. 

And next season, the man who tied Dawson for the Texas consecutive field goal record, Anthony Fera, should be the third kicker on an NFL roster in 2014. 

But Fera’s college football journey wasn’t simple. 

After he opted to go to Penn State, he became a candidate for the Ray Guy Award — an award for the nation’s top punter — and a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, an award for the nation’s best kicker.

After Fera’s second year with the Nittany Lions, scandal broke. With Penn State facing a slew of penalties,  Fera decided to transfer, taking advantage of the NCAA allowed transfer without sitting out a year, but for a different reason: his mom.

“Shortly before I arrived on campus, the most important person in my life was diagnosed with MS, making it more and more difficult to travel each weekend from Texas to see me play,” Fera said in a statement following his decision to transfer. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to give back to my family and make their lives a little easier by transferring to a university much closer to home, The University of Texas.”

Fera was hampered by injuries in his first season on the 40 Acres. He missed the first four games of the 2012 season with a groin injury and the final three with a hip injury.

He entered his senior year healthy and started all 13 games, connecting on 20 of 22 field goals and missing just one extra point in 46 attempts. He was also the No. 1 punter on the depth chart, averaging 40.7 yards per punt.

His 90.9 field goal percentage placed him second all-time in Longhorns’ history and helped Fera become the first Texas consensus All-American kicker, and the first Lou Groza Award finalist in Longhorn history. 

Despite no game-winning, memorable field goals, Fera’s consistency has him poised to be a late round pick. and continue the legacy of successful Texas placekickers at the next level.

Despite a slow start on offense, Texas entered the locker room at halftime with a 14-3 lead over Kansas.

The Longhorns failed to score on their first two drives of the game, and they were ready to punt again on their third possession before a running into the kicker penalty against Kansas gave them a new set of downs. Texas took advantage by turning in a 15-play, 92-yard drive completed by a two-yard touchdown run by junior running back Malcolm Brown.

Brown added another rushing touchdown from three-yards out with 2:31 remaining in the second quarter to extend the Texas lead to 14-0. Brown rushed for 43 yards in the half, while sophomore running back Johnathan Gray led the Longhorns with 47 yards on the ground.

Senior quarterback Case McCoy overcame an early interception to throw for 120 yards on 13-of-17 passing. Junior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley also enjoyed a strong first half, hauling in four receptions for a team-high 62 yards. 

Kansas kicker Ron Doherty connected on a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to cut the Texas lead to 14-3.

Former UT All-American and NFL kicker and punter Russell Erxleben, who previously served a federal prison sentence for securities fraud, was arrested Thursday on new charges of running an illegal Ponzi investment scam that netted more than $2 million.

According to a federal indictment, the 56-year-old Erxleben scammed investors from 2005 to 2009 with fraudulent deals that promoted dealing in post-World War I German government bonds and a work of art purportedly by French painter Paul Gauguin.

According to the indictment, Erxleben used the investments to pay himself and previous investors. Erxleben was indicted on five counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud and two counts of money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the wire and securities fraud charges, and up to 10 years on the money laundering charge.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane ordered Erxleben held in custody until his next court appearance Jan. 28. Erxleben requested a court-appointed attorney but told the court he may also seek to hire private counsel.

Erxleben was sentenced in 1999 to seven years in federal prison for an investment scam that robbed investors of $36 million. The latest indictment said Erxleben did not disclose that conviction or the fact he still owed $28 million in restitution, to his later investors.

Erxleben still holds the record for the longest field goal in UT history — 67 yards. He was a first-round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints
in 1979.

– Associated Press

Jordan went 1-for-3 against Wyoming and a missed extra point.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Like their offensive and defensive counterparts, the Longhorns’ special teams had moments of brilliance in their season opener while leaving much to be desired.

In his first career start as defensive tackle, Chris Whaley blocked an extra point. In his first career game with Texas, Alex King booted all three of his punts more than 45 yards, one of which was downed inside the Wyoming Cowboys’ five-yard line.

Head coach Mack Brown called his team’s kickoff coverage “the best we’ve had” but also pointed out, like most observers, the glaring need for improvement from his kicker. With Justin Tucker kicking for the Ravens and Penn State transfer Anthony Fera out with a groin injury, true freshman Nick Jordan took over the place-kicking duties.

But the Coppell product missed two of his three field goal attempts, hitting a 31-yarder but missing a 46-yarder wide left in the second quarter and coming up short on a 44-yard try in the fourth, when he also had an extra point blocked after Texas’ final score of the night.

In one game, Jordan missed as many field goal attempts from 40 and 49 yards as Tucker did each of the last two years when he went 9-for-11 from that range. Hunter Lawrence hit 10 of 11 such kicks in 2009, including a 46-yarder as time expired against Nebraska in the Big 12 title game that sent the Longhorns to a national title game.

“I thought the first one was a really good kick,” Brown said. “It just went left. Then he makes a great kick but then on the last one, I thought it was a low snap. He grabbed it and tried to get it back, but he jerked it.”

It won’t matter against Wyoming, but the sooner the Longhorns can get a more reliable kicker on the field — such as Fera, who will also miss Saturday’s game against New Mexico — the better. For now, walk-on freshman Nick Rose, who handled the kickoff duties last week, will compete with Jordan for the place-kicking responsibilities.

“Since Anthony got hurt, they’ve been competing for it,” Brown said. “I’m really pleased with Nick Rose. I think he can be a weapon for us. We just need to figure out how to use him.”

Rose’s performance was also a bright spot on special teams for Texas. He sent three of seven kickoffs for touchbacks while Wyoming was stopped inside the 20-yard line on each of the other four, thanks to tackles by Sheroid Evans, Josh Turner, Dalton Santos and Tevin Jackson.

King’s punting (boots of 46, 58 and 56 yards) and Whaley blocking the extra point following an 82-yard touchdown pass by Brett Smith were also impressive special teams moments. Texas went on to score 24 unanswered points after Whaley’s big play.

“Obviously, the 11 guys that were on the field at that point were all just heartbroken,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “But to come back and block the ensuing point attempt, you could see a bunch of guys not feeling sorry for themselves and not really focusing on that play. But for us to block that PAT I think really speaks to the spirit that this team has.”

Thanks to guys like Whaley, King and Rose, all that stands between Texas and an elite special teams unit is a healthy Fera. Until then, the Longhorns will be sending an inexperienced and likely unreliable kicker onto the field.

Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: Kicking must improve

The Longhorns will have to find reliable options to supplant the production of Justin Tucker, who handled the place-kicking and punting duties in 2011.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time in a long time Texas will have an entirely new group of players handling kicking and punting duties.

After a long line of successful kickers that included the likes of Ryan Bailey, Hunter Lawrence and most recently Justin Tucker, the torch will now be passed to a young group of players that will all be in burnt orange for the first time in 2012.

The initial depth chart lists true freshman Nick Jordan as the starting place-kicker, a position many thought was all but sewn up by Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. After re-aggravating a groin injury, Fera has quickly become an afterthought in the kicking department. At Coppell High School Jordan became an Army All-American and he seems to have carried over that momentum to the 40 Acres. Jordan has been tabbed as having one of the strongest legs in the 2012 class, and while he has yet to log any statistics as a Longhorn, he’s doing something right if he has already won the starting job.

It will be tough to replace the numbers that Tucker put up last year when he nailed 44 of 44 PATs and hit 17 of 21 field goals. There may be some growing pains with Jordan at kicker, but if he can learn from his mistakes early in his career he certainly has the ability to become the next great Texas kicker.

Another true freshman in Nick Rose will be tasked with kickoffs this season. If there’s one area Texas could use serious improvement it is the kickoff department. Last season Justin Tucker kicked off 70 times and recorded just 12 touchbacks. While it is a stretch to expect a touchback every kickoff, the ratio could use a boost.

That’s where Rose comes in to play.

In his senior season at Highland Park High School, Rose kicked off 87 times resulting in 48 touchbacks. I don’t have to do the math for you, that’s pretty damn good. If he can carry over those numbers as a Longhorn he will have no problem settling in as a kickoff specialist.

Like many kickers Rose also dabbles in the punting game, but for now he will only have to concern himself with kicking as he is listed as Jordan’s backup at place-kicker.

The third new face on special teams is Alex King, the new starting punter for the Longhorns. King joins Texas this season after spending the past four years with the Duke Blue Devils. During his career at Duke, King appeared in 24 games and punted a total of 111 times. His 41.38 career average ranks fourth-best in Duke history. King brings needed experience to the position and a fruitful leg to boot. In 2011, 17 of his 50 punts landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, something that could prove to be an asset to this year’s Texas team. If King can continue to pin opponents’ inside their own half, he could become a good friend of the Longhorns’ defense, who will be chomping at the bit to score a few touchdowns of their own.

Stat Guy: Where Tucker’s kick ranks in school history

Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal on Thursday against the Aggies. Tucker’s kick is one of many in Texas football history that has led to historical wins
Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal on Thursday against the Aggies. Tucker’s kick is one of many in Texas football history that has led to historical wins

On Thanksgiving night, Texas kicker Justin Tucker added his name to Longhorn football lore with a career-defining kick that sent Texas A&M packing to the Southeastern Conference with one final loss. Let’s take a look at where Tucker’s field goal ranks amongst other crucial kicks in the Mack Brown Era.

No. 5: The Ryan Bailey Show:

In 2006, Texas headed into Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers. With heavy snow blanketing the field, the Longhorns faced a 19-20 deficit. With starting kicker Greg Johnson 2-for-4 on the day, head coach Mack Brown sent walk-on kicker Ryan Bailey into the game to attempt a 22-yard field goal; Bailey sent the ball through the uprights, won the game and secured his job as the Texas placekicker. The next season, Bailey kicked a 40-yard game-winner at Oklahoma State that capped off a 24-point comeback in the fourth quarter.

No. 4: Stockton saves Ricky’s day:

And to think, Ricky Williams’ record-setting day in 1998 nearly ended in a loss. After the Heisman Trophy winner broke Tony Dorsett’s NCAA rushing record with a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Texas A&M, the Longhorns found themselves down 23-24 with five seconds left. Kicker Kris Stockton, who had already missed attempts of 50 and 28 yards, came out to try a 24-yard field goal. The kick was true, Texas won 26-24 and Ricky’s day was made perfect.

No. 3: Mangum shoots Texas past Michigan:

In 2004, the one-loss Longhorns headed into the Rose Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines. Behind quarterback Vince Young’s five-touchdown performance — a preview of what was to come in 2005 — the game ultimately came down to the leg of senior kicker Dusty Mangum. With time running out, Mangum kicked a 37-yard field goal — which seemed to be deflected at the line of scrimmage — to defeat the Wolverines 38-37. It was Mangum’s first field goal attempt of the game and proved to be the most important play.

No. 2: So long, Aggies:

The aforementioned Tucker kick, which came after Case McCoy scrambled 25 yards to put Texas in field goal position. For Tucker, who played high school football at Austin Westlake, the 40-yarder becomes the highlight of his collegiate career. And for the Longhorns, it was the perfect way to end the last scheduled game of the storied rivalry.

No.1: One second left:

In 2009, Texas found itself down 10-12 against the Cornhuskers in the Big 12 Championship game. In a game dominated by Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Longhorn kicker Hunter Lawrence stole the show, kicking a 46-yard field goal with one second left to beat the Cornhuskers, 13-12. The kick sent Texas to the National Championship, leading many to call it the most important kick in Texas football history.

Printed on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 as: Kickers clutch in comebacks throughout Texas' history

Texas, Mack Brown still making up for 2003

Justin Tucker will enter this season as Texas’ do-it-all kicker. The Longhorns have given a scholarship to a kicker every other year since 2006.
Justin Tucker will enter this season as Texas’ do-it-all kicker. The Longhorns have given a scholarship to a kicker every other year since 2006.

Texas offered a scholarship to Coppell kicker Nick Jordan on Monday because Mack Brown still remembers 2003.

That’s the year he didn’t offer Georgetown’s Mason Crosby.

Colorado got him and for four years (2003-2006), Crosby was the best kicker in the country. He would finish his four-year career in Boulder as a unanimous All American, as Colorado’s all-time leader in points, was named Conference Player of the Week eight times his senior season, and kicked a 60-yard field goal. Of 203 career kickoffs, 138 were touchbacks.

Brown didn’t think that a scholarship needed to be spent on a kicker, because kickers don’t run or throw or tackle or block. They just kick, and just about all of them do it with the same proficiency.

So Texas offered Crosby nothing more than walk-on status. Four years later, Brown regretted the decision so much that he sent a handwritten letter to Crosby, apologizing for not offering him a scholarship, calling him the best college kicker he had ever seen, and told him he’d enjoy looking forward to watching him play on Sundays, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

It never really bit the Longhorns in the butt as much as it could have — Dusty Mangum did hit that 37-yard field goal against Michigan in 2004 — but, it was an oversight that Brown has spent the past five years trying to correct.

He offered a scholarship in 2006 to Hunter Lawrence, one to Justin Tucker in 2008, one to William Russ in 2010 and now, to Jordan for the 2012 class.

Lawrence hit the game-winner against Nebraska in 2009, Tucker was the most valuable player on the team last season, Russ should be the heir-apparent once Tucker graduates after this season and Jordan will come after that.

Jordan, one of the top kickers in the country, wasn’t sure Texas would be able to offer him a scholarship initially, as scholarship numbers were almost at a max limit and he would be the third kicker on the roster (walk-on Ben Pruitt of The Woodlands will join the Longhorns for the 2011 season).

“They knew they wanted me, but the problem was that they had to come up with a scholarship,” Jordan said.

Texas came through with the scholarship — Brown’s determined not to make the same mistake twice.  

Read more in our blogs about Nick Jordan

Justin Tucker kicks a field goal during Texas' loss to Baylor earlier this season. Tucker kicked off, punted and kicked field goals for the Longhorns this season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

With three seconds left in the final showdown between Texas and Texas A&M, the game was on Justin Tucker’s foot.

Texas was down 25-24.

Tucker made the field goal — and Texas football history.

He became the sixth player in Texas history to kick a game winning field goal on the game’s final play. The last time Texas won on a field goal as time expired was the 2009 Big 12 Championship game against Nebraska when Hunter Lawrence made a 46-yard field goal.

Now that Tucker’s time at Texas is over, he believes he is prepared to be a kicker in the NFL.

“Of course I’m a little biased, but I think I’m the best kicker in this draft and I have the stats to prove it, and I have the track record and my game film speaks for itself,” Tucker said. “We’ll see what happens in late April.”

Tucker has been Texas’ No. 1 kicker since he replaced Lawrence two years ago. The Westlake alumnus and Austin native has been a Longhorn fan all of his life.

He graduated in December with a degree in music and finished his career at Texas tied for third best field goal percentage on the UT career list. He went 40-of-48 (.833) on field goal attempts and 71-for-71 in extra points. He finished his time at the 40 Acres with 190 career points.

He split punting duties with John Gold his first two seasons. His rugby style punts teamed with his ability to punt traditionally was an advantage for the Longhorns and kept other teams guessing. He punted 155 times for 6,283 yards with an average of 40.5 yards per kick.

Kickers aren’t often thought of as key parts of the team’s core, but Tucker’s abilities when it comes to all three aspects of the kicking game have helped the Longhorns throughout his time at Texas.

Tucker hopes to make a career out of kicking field goals.

“Obviously I’d love to do everything from [taking] snaps at QB to catching touchdown passes,” said Tucker after the A&M game. “But as it is, I do love scoring points and putting points on the board for our team, and just propelling us to victories is probably one of the most satisfying things about being a placekicker and a kickoff guy.”

During Texas’ pro day, Tucker said he made everything up to 55 yards. He was very pleased with his performance and believes he showed scouts his abilities.

“A lot of scouts think that what they want to do is see you kick in front of them and not see your practice film,” Tucker said. “They just want to see the game film, and in person to make sure you have what it takes to go to the next level.”

Tucker is quirky. From his rugby-style kicks to his affinity for opera and the bright orange Nike soccer shoes he wears, he certainly has a lot of personality.

Although head coach Mack Brown doesn’t particularly like that Tucker wears non-traditional shoes, Tucker is a non-traditional guy and kicker.

“I should have told him he can’t keep wearing those shoes unless you make the kick, but I didn’t,” said Brown after the A&M game. “He had enough pressure at the time, but there was absolutely no doubt in my mind or anyone in our sideline’s mind that he was going to make it because we have last second kicks every day in practice.”

Come draft day, Tucker, like many other Longhorns, will be hoping to hear his name called by an NFL team.

“My bread and butter is kicking field goals and that’s where I hope to make a living,” Tucker said.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Tucker hopes to kick start career

Nick Jordan gave the Longhorns their 18th football commitment for the 2012 recruiting class Monday.

“It feels great,” Jordan said. “There’s been more support than I could have even imagined.”

Jordan camped at Texas in June and came away impressed, so much so that he decided to reach out to the UT coaching staff.

“I got in touch with [co-offensive coordinator] Major Applewhite, and he told me he liked what he saw at the camp,” Jordan said. “Since then, Texas was talking to me about the possibility of a scholarship.”

Each NCAA Division 1 football program is allotted only 85 scholarships a year. Spread over four classes, and those who red shirt, coaches have to do their due diligence so as not to waste a scholarship. On average, the Longhorns sign around 20-23 players each year.

“They knew they wanted me but they had to come up with a scholarship. They had to decide if they wanted to use one on a kicker or save it for somebody else,” Jordan said.

Jordan, who is considered a national top-five kicker, took in the Texas campus at a visit Monday, where Applewhite told him to call head coach Mack Brown, who was away on vacation.

“I called, and they offered me the scholarship,” he said.

As a junior, Jordan converted eight of just nine field goal attempts, a small number for somebody with a blue-chip leg.

“My coaches don’t like to kick very much,” he said, laughing. “The last game of the season, in the quarterfinals, I kicked four field goals. So disregarding that game, I hardly had any attempts.”

The Texas coaches have told Jordan to “keep it up” and put in work in the weight room. His leg, though, is already plenty strong.

“The longest I’ve ever hit in practice was 70 yards, without a tee,” he said. “In a game, I’ve hit one from 43 yards out, but that’s the farthest attempt I’ve had. I feel like I could hit 60 with the wind.”

Texas usually uses one leg for both field goals and kickoff duties — though current kicker Justin Tucker punts, too. That works fine with Jordan.
“I actually prefer to kickoff, I feel like I can crush the ball,” he said.

This continues the pattern that Texas has developed. Every other year, the Longhorns have offered a scholarship to a kicker, starting with Hunter Lawrence in 2006 and continuing with Justin Tucker (2008) and William Russ (2010).