Jose Pizano, every time he lines up for a kick, keeps things simple.
That’s the way he’s always been. The former UNLV kicker’s path to becoming the 2023 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year included some misses. But through those mistakes, he’s maintained his focus by keeping three things in mind when he takes the field in hopes of putting points on the board for his team.
Keep consistent with his steps. Following through on his kick. And lastly, simply relaxing.
“I was always a pretty calm kid growing up,” Pizano told HERO Sports. “I don’t get too anxious about things so I just kind of try to stay composed and then I just tell myself, ‘Just go out there and kick the ball and just relax.’ I don’t try to overthink or overdo it. I just try to keep things simple.”
Pizano, who’s from Lehi, Utah, climbed up the ranks of college football, beginning at the JUCO level before going to Missouri State of the FCS. That eventually led to him going to UNLV.
Now he has hopes of reaching the NFL. He’s in the midst of preparing for UNLV’s pro day this spring.
“Honestly just showcasing when the opportunity presents itself, which obviously means making all my kicks, being consistent and accurate obviously,” Pizano said. “I think that’s the biggest thing is, being in the kicker position, they want to see that you’re accurate and consistent and for me that’s just training everyday.”
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Jose Pizano Shines With Multiple Programs
Pizano began his collegiate career at Snow College in Utah. In 2019, he made 9 of 12 field goals, including a game-winner over Garden City, and all 28 of his extra-point attempts.
Then he transferred to Missouri State, where he broke the school record for most consecutive point-after attempts made. In the spring of 2021, he made 85.7% of his field goals (12 of 14) which was second in the Missouri Valley and 12th in the FCS. He earned all-conference second-team honors.
In the fall of 2021, he was a second-team All-American. He made 21 of 24 field goals, ending the season with 14 straight makes, and 46 of 47 extra points. He was top 10 in the country in field goals per game (1.75), scoring (9.1 points per game), and field goal percentage (87.5%).
He was an All-Missouri Valley honorable mention in 2022 after going 12 for 16 on field goals and 35 of 35 on extra points. Against Western Illinois that season, he made all three of his field goals and all seven of his extra-point attempts to break the school’s kick-scoring record for a single game.
But also during his time at Missouri State, he missed both of his field goals against Illinois State in 2021. Soon after, the Bears’ coaching staff connected Pizano with a psychologist who helped him with the mental side of the game.
He feels he made strides because of it.
“That’s when it really clicked for me,” Pizano said. “A lot of people can kick a football. Can you control the mental side of the game? And that’s when I really dialed into that, just after a mistake letting go of a missed kick and just being able to come back from a missed field goal.”
But he told himself for a long time he wanted to reach the FBS level at one point. So he entered the transfer portal before the 2023 season.
When he considered leaving Missouri State, UNLV and Vanderbilt were among the schools he talked to. But UNLV presented an opportunity for him to stay closer to home, and he was encouraged by the Rebels’ team culture. He wanted to be a part of the program’s upward trajectory.
Even though he had to replace UNLV’s all-time leading scorer, Daniel Gutierrez, Pizano shined. He made 26 of 29 field goals – all three of his misses were from 46 yards out or further – and was a perfect 55 of 55 on extra points.
He was the first UNLV player to become a first-team All-American in two decades and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the country’s best kicker.
And “by far the best memory I had this year,” he said, was from his performance against Colorado State when he made all six of his field goals – including a 28-yard game-winner. That was the Rebels’ sixth win of the season, giving them bowl-eligibility for the first time in a decade.
“I think I did pretty good,” Pizano said of his 2023 performance. “I think I definitely could’ve made the three kicks I missed. Obviously you never want to miss, but nobody’s perfect. Obviously at the end of the day, I’m grateful for the season me and my teammates had and I think overall it was a great year for me and the university as a whole.”
Jose Pizano’s NFL Draft Hopes
Now Pizano is readying himself for professional opportunities.
He went to California to work with former NFL kicker Nick Novak for a weekend. He also planned on spending time in Las Vegas and Utah, but he expected to mostly train on his own as he focuses on cardio and strength work.
He’s gearing up for UNLV’s pro day. He knows once he starts kicking in front of scouts, he’ll have to treat it like a game-winning opportunity.
“Over the years, I’ve learned the mental side of the game is so crucial,” he said. “And in the kicking game, if you can’t stay composed, it’s very hard to make these big-time kicks. I just like to keep things simple.”
But keeping things simple, even under intense pressure, isn’t a new concept for Pizano.