Preseason quotes from a college football head coach usually read like a quadratic equation – “x” represents the thing he can’t foresee, the “unknown,” while “a,” “b,” and “c” are the answers he already has. Those known numbers include but are not limited to quarterbacks, offensive and defensive weapons, even linemen get some love when talking about the upcoming season.
But the integers often left out are of the special teams variety – kickers, punters, long snappers, etc.
So, when Miami head coach Manny Diaz shouted out his starting kicker ahead of the Hurricanes opener against UAB, he kind of shocked the college football world.
“Jose Borregales has changed our football team,” said Diaz in a media Zoom session. “Our inability to finish drives… and to make easy field goals and PATs costs us wins. There is going to be a ton of tight football games this year in this conference… Jose provides a lot of confidence in our organization with that.”
It’s true, Borregales is a game-changer – the Florida International transfer was named a Lou Groza Award finalist in 2018 after missing only five field goals and one extra point for the Panthers. Last season, he made 72.4 percent of his field goals, including three of four attempts of 50-plus yards. Borregales transferred to Miami for his final season, leaving FIU as the all-time leading scorer with 281 career points. He made a statement as a Panther, but putting on a Hurricane uniform has been a lifelong dream.
“I started crying,” admitted Borregales’ mother Vivi after reading Diaz’s quote about her son. “I couldn’t even read it. It has been a long journey, a long-time dream. Being raised here in Miami, every kid’s dream is to play for the Hurricanes. And it’s not easy to get here. So, when he got this opportunity – it was a dream come true.”
Borregales’ kicking journey started like most – on a soccer field. Until one day when he saw some kids wearing football helmets and decided to try one on himself.
“His story is that he saw someone with a helmet and he wanted to put it on,” recounted Jose’s younger brother Andres, who is committed to kick for Miami next year. “And then from there, he started playing lineman until the coaches said they needed a kicker. Both my brother and I have played positions other than kicker. That’s why, whenever people say kickers aren’t athletes, we take offense.”
Vivi, who is the family videographer, says she has videos of both Jose and Andres making tackles in high school, including one during a big game where Jose’s collision led to a concussion. She admitted that she has only seen her son’s kicks from behind a phone screen.
“I usually record all of his kicks,” said Vivi. “I can count on one hand how many times I have actually seen him kick. He asks me for the videos to watch after the game, I think he likes to see it all from a different angle.”
Borregales’ mother and brother were on hand last Thursday night for the Hurricanes' 31-14 win over UAB at Hard Rock Stadium. When asked about what else she does when the kicking unit is called out onto the field, she simply replied “pray.”
Andres, on the other hand, went into a little more detail about his brother’s superstitions when it comes time to knocking one through the uprights.
“One superstition that we both have in common is that we don’t put the ball on the line, we put it behind,” explained Andres. “And also, the “X,” most people say “X marks the spot” but for us it’s bad luck. So, if we are hitting a 50-yard field goal, we will put it a little bit to the side and behind the line.”
Sure, kickers are quirky, but they have nerves of steel and resolve like no other. Which is why missing a kick doesn’t faze them, unlike the Borregales matriarch.
“They have to tell me to shake it off,” laughed Vivi. “They are already over it – they are both very professional. They can miss a kick and immediately forget about it. I cry for 10 hours and they have to tell me to let it go.”
Andres agreed adding, “Our mindset it just on to the next one.”
Borregales knocked in a 25-yard field goal against the Blazers and went 4-4 in PATs last week. Diaz acknowledged the kicking and punting game in his opening statement after the win.
“The kicking game – we’ve seen the addition of (Lou) Hedley last year and Borregales this year,” noted Diaz. “I think every kickoff was a touchback, we made our field goal. (With) Hedley, it was like bomb after bomb – 47.5 average, long of 55. Always putting them on a long field, very hard for them to drive the ball against our defense.”
It’s not often a head coach remembers to mention the kicking/punting variables in a post-game presser let alone credit them with making the other team’s life more difficult, but that speaks to the impact these newcomers have had on Miami’s program.
As the Hurricanes head into a big conference bout at Louisville this weekend, it might be worth noting that the Cardinals allowed only nine field goals (on 13 attempts) last season and 42.23 average punt yards per game, with a 38.45 net average per punt.
The 'Canes have a definite edge however – Louisville’s kicker didn’t even attempt a field goal against Western Kentucky last weekend (though he did go 5-5 in point-afters) and the punter struggled to hold on to the ball.
But Borregales isn’t worried about X’s or O’s or A, B and C’s – he’s here for one thing.
“My goal here is just to win the ACC Championship,” the redshirt senior told the media last month. “I’m not an individual guy. I came here ready to work.”
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.