Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two NCCFB Kickers Named to Lou Groza Watch List

Charlotte sophomore Jonathan Cruz and ECU junior kicker Jake Verity have been named to the 2019 Lou Groza Place-kicker Award Watch List, according to an announcement by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission Wednesday. The award recognizes the top collegiate placekicker and is named for National Football League Hall of Fame kicker Lou “The Toe” Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Cruz, the 2019 Conference USA Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year, was named Second Team all-Conference USA and to the C-USA all-Freshman Team, last year. In addition to his preseason Special Teams Player of the Year award, he was also named to the 2019 preseason all-Conference USA team, by the league’s coaches.

As a freshman, Cruz set school records for field goals made from 40 or more yards (8) and from 50 or more yards (3). His game-winning 56-yarder with 25 seconds left at defending C-USA champion Florida Atlantic was the second-longest made field goal in the FBS and the longest in C-USA, last year. Cruz was 17-of-22 on field goal attempts and a perfect 27-of-27 on PATs.

Cruz was a three-time C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week who owned the two longest kicks (56, 54) in the league. He was a perfect 3-for-3 vs. Appalachian State, including his 54-yarder. He connected from 40 and 39 yards in the 49ers win over Southern Miss and was 2-for-2 at FAU, including the school-record tying 56-yarder to win the game, 27-24.

Verity, who has garnered Preseason First-Team All-American Athletic Conference honors by Athlons and Phil Steele’s College Football Preview Magazine, is the third Pirate since 2011 to be named to the watch list joining Michael Barbour (2011) and Warren Harvey (2013).

A year ago, Verity was a First-Team All-AAC selection after leading The American in field goals made per game (1.58) and FG percentage (90.5, an ECU single-season record), while standing fifth in kick scoring (7.0 ppg). The Bremen, Ga. native ranked among the national leaders in FG percentage (fourth) and FGs made per game (12th) in 2018, while currently standing eighth in career FGs made per game (1.38) after making 36-of-48 attempts in three years. Verity, who connected on 27-of-28 PATs, successfully made 19-of-21 FGAs and tied his career-long with a 52-yarder against Memphis. In all, he made at least one field goal in 11 of 12 games (multiple seven times) and was also credited with a 38-yard game-winning kick versus Old Dominion, the first of his career.

In 26 career contests, Verity has converted 36-of-48 (75.0 percent) on field goals and 67-of-69 (97.1 percent) on extra points. He has accounted for 175 career points as a Pirate, which stands 11th all-time heading in to the 2019 season.

The Groza Award is named for National Football League Hall of Fame kicker Lou “The Toe” Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Groza won four NFL championships with Cleveland and was named NFL Player of the Year in 1954. Although an All-Pro offensive lineman as well, Groza ushered in the notion that there should be a place on an NFL roster for a kicker.

Accomplishments are tabulated throughout the season and the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award will announce its 20 semifinalists on Thursday, Nov. 7th. From this list, a panel of more than 100 FBS head coaches, SIDs, media members, former Groza finalists, and current NFL kickers selects the top three finalists for the award, announced on Tuesday, Nov. 26th. That same group then selects the national winner, who will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 12th during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

The 28th Annual Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, presented by the Orange Bowl, recognizes the three finalists during a celebration in Palm Beach County, culminating with a gala awards banquet at West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 9th.