June 30, 2006
Leesburg - The story of Leesburg's Chris Hetland rise to the job of starting placekicker at the University of Florida does not rival that of Rudy Ruettiger at Notre Dame.
But it is in the neighborhood.
Hetland not only fulfilled his childhood dream of kicking for his beloved Gators last fall but at the end of the season he earned something he hadwanted most since he walked on in Gainesville four years ago.
When Chris Hetland decided to walk on at Florida four years ago, he had two goals.
Become the Gators starting kicker and earn a scholarship.
Hetland accomplished the first goal last year and after the 2005 season named second team all-conference by SEC coaches and the Associated Press.
Then on his birthday, Hetland got what he says was the best present of his life when Gators head coach Urban Meyer had Chris sign his scholarship papers.
Chris Hetland said"He (Meyer) told me before the Florida State game. He said that if you don't wet the bed in this one you know you are going to be on scholarship for us. And I was like wet the bed,what are you talking about? He was like just to do you have been doing. It wasn't real until I actually signed the papers. It was cool."
Chris Hetland knows his junior season his now ancient history.
As good as last year was, Hetland knows he can do better in his senior season this year.
And the improvement showed in the spring when he kicked a Florida spring game record
52-yard field goal.
Hetland said "And it is feeling better than it ever has been and I am hitting the ball better. And I am able to go out three or four times a week where as this last year I wasn't kicking until closer to fall practice, fall camp. So it is alot more work that I have put into to it."
And the Gators will need a strong kicking game this facing a schedule that includes Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina
Hetland said "I just want to be able to help my team in those big game situations which I know with the schedule we have this year it could come down to a couple of field goals."
And that is why Chris Hetland is working hard during the summer to make sure he is ready to make the last second game winning kick for a Florida team that is ranked in the top ten in most preseason polls.
Chris Hetland was named the SEC's special teams player of the week for his performances against Wyoming and Tennessee.
He is one of just four kickers to earn special teams player of the week honors in their conferences multiple times last season.