Perfection can be fun. The pursuit of perfection isn't always as enjoyable.
Roberto Aguayo is determined to have fun while perfecting his craft as an NFL kicker. He's doing that in the face of what might not seem like the most agreeable situation: competing for his job with a proven veteran after a rookie season that didn't go as well as he expected.
"I'm just having fun with it," said Aguayo at the end of the first week of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2017 training camp. "I'm just relaxing and letting it happen. I'm talented, I know what I've done and what I'm capable of doing. I've done it since I was nine years old. I'm just letting my body take over, really."
It's a good bet the former Florida State star had fun on Thursday as he had what Head Coach Dirk Koetter called his best day yet. In fact, Aguayo made all seven of his field goal attempts during the two-hour workout, several from long distance and a couple that emulated game situations.
"[He was] lights-out," said Koetter. "Best day of training camp, best day in a long time. He looked great today. Today, Roberto was money on both ends. I don't think he missed all day. Yeah, he was money."
The Buccaneers drafted Aguayo in 2016 with the obvious intention that he would be their long-term answer at the position after his record-setting career at Florida State. That was a little less obvious after he made 22 of 31 field goals during the season, a 71.0% success rate that is too low in the modern NFL. That prompted the Bucs to bring in the aforementioned competition in the person of Nick Folk, an 11th-year veteran who has tried nearly 300 regular-season field goals and was good on 87.1% of his tries last year.
Somehow, though, Aguayo finds himself at ease, actually feeling less pressure than he did a year ago.
"You've got to enjoy it, you've got to embrace it," said Aguayo of the competition. "I'm blessed to be out here. At the end of the day, my biggest competition is within myself. It's good to have someone out here just to see, to visually see someone [else]. But at the end of the day, I know what I'm capable of doing. I've done big things throughout my career and I know that I'm capable of doing that and capable of being here. So at the end of the day it's just going out there and having fun, enjoying it and just hitting the ball."
The Bucs need to head into the regular season knowing they have a kicker who is capable of making the field goals on which the season might turn. That includes the occasional long-range shot; last year, Aguayo's longest made field goal was a 43-yarder (his first career regular-season attempt), and he only had one attempt from 50 yards or further. On Thursday morning, Aguayo finished one move-the-ball drill with a 54-yard field goal, then ended practice with a 53-yarder that split the narrower "skinny" posts at the north end of the field. The Bucs did a lot of two-minute-offense work on Thursday; in a game, that would translate into a high-pressure kick, likely with the game on the line.
"This is something new, sprinkling it around practice, more like a game situation," said Aguayo. "I was hitting the ball well today and I've just got to keep it rolling."
Pictures of Winston during the Buccaneers' training camp practices.
Aguayo indicated that three of his seven tries on the day were into those skinny posts, which provide a success zone that is about 46% as wide as regulation goal posts. The normal target range is 18.5 feet wide; the skinny posts only 8.5 feet wide. Aguayo says the smaller target doesn't change his approach to making the kick.
"Just hit it the same way and just give it a good chance," he said. "It does build your focus and your accuracy, trying to hit it into a smaller space. But at the end of the day you just hit it right and it will carry right on through."
If Aguayo is indeed more relaxed and able to "enjoy the ride," as Koetter often counsels, it may simply be because he is more comfortable now as an NFL player. He doesn't really talk in terms of "pressure," now or looking back at his rookie camp, but he does think his head is less "cluttered" this time around.
"I was just making it more than what it really is," he said. "You come into the NFL and you think…there are things that you've got to do a little better. It's a job. But at the end of the day, keep doing what you're doing. Take it back to when you were young and all you did was go out there and have fun. Enjoy the ride. That's one of the things Coach Koetter says, 'Enjoy the ride,' and I'm trying to do more of that."
Camp, of course, is just a week old. There's a bit more than four weeks plus four preseason games to go before the Buccaneers will have to make a decision on their kicking job. That's okay with Aguayo, though, because he sees it as an ongoing process. And, now, a fun one.
"It's been good," he said. "Building. Building since the beginning, building in OTAs, starting the first day and just building. I'm feeling good about it. I'm just trying to get consistently better every day."