By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Being one of the best college kickers in America comes with a lot responsibility, like making sure your family is in tow for all the award ceremonies.
Auburn's Daniel Carlson is working those phones as he heads back to award ceremonies for the second consecutive year as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation's best place-kicker. First up is the Groza ceremonies in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida for on Dec. 5; and then he'll head to Atlanta for the College Football Awards Show to see if he won Dec. 8.
Carlson, Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez and Georgia Southern's Younghoe Koo were announced Monday as this year's finalists for the Lou Groza. Carlson was a finalist last year, too.
"The fact they've voted me in twice and recognized me is huge," Carlson said. "Something I wanted to do was to go back with a chance to win it."
Carlson and his family made the whirlwind award scene last year. They're making plans to go back.
Carlson leads the nation in points by a kicker with 115, highlighted by the game in which he tied an SEC record with six field goals in Auburn's 18-13 win over LSU. He's hit 22 of his 25 field goal attempts, and two of his misses were blocked. He's hit eight field goals of at least 50 yards in his career, and needs two field goals in the last two games to set the single-season school record for field goals.
His 63 career field goals are an Auburn record, and his 83 percent accuracy rate is tops, too. His booming kickoff has him tops in the nation in touchbacks this season.
He's shown he can do it all: He set an Auburn record for most points scored by a kicker in a game against Arkansas State when he kicked three field goals and six extra points and scored a touchdown on a 20-yard run on a fake field goal.
Carlson is taking a modest approach to the award ceremony.
"There are a lot of really good kickers around the country. To be selected as one of the top three is a huge honor. Looking at the numbers, there's a lot of guys to choose from," he said.
Carlson said the LSU game was memorable, but added you never know when you're thrown into a game such as that, though maybe after the fourth or fifth field goal you have a pretty good idea.
"There are certain games that you think is going to be a tougher game and those points are going to be more important," he said. "And there are certain games where you hope the offense is really going to be rolling and you're going to be kicking a lot of extra points. No matter, you have to prepare for an LSU-type game where every field goal matters.
"What I do is to prepare myself like it's the Iron Bowl every week."
Carlson is preparing for that very game this week. Auburn plays at Alabama at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
"I'll just try to help the team," Carlson said. "You never know what situation you're going to be called upon."
Carlson's competition for the award comes from Gonzalez, who is major college football's all-time leader in field goals and points scored by a kicker. The Arizona State senior has hit 23 of 24 field goal attempts this season, including seven from at least 50 yards. Koo has hit 19 of his 20 field goal attempts. The 19 field goals are a Georgia Southern record.
Fans will get a collective one vote on the final ballot. That Internet voting is at www.lougrozaaward.com
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine