Placekicker Lazzara Looking for Improvement and a Scholarship


by - Correspondent -
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Lazzara kicked field goals from 33 and 21 yards in
the UVA game.

CLEMSON - It took an eleventh-hour promise for placekicker Tony Lazzara to sign with Clemson.
He never thought he would have to help Clemson make good on the promise.

"I had actually committed to Central Florida and signing day was on Wednesday," said Lazzara. "On Tuesday at eleven at night, coach (Rich) Bisaccia called and said, 'We want you to come and be our kicker, and with that in mind we've already offered 24 scholarships so we don't have any left. But in December we have one of the guys graduating and you'll get a scholarship.' With that taken into account, I came here."

That was in February 1998. Lazzara redshirted the 1998 season. In December the old staff was fired and all bets were off. No scholarship was waiting.

Now, Lazzara is trying to earn one the old-fashioned way. Step one was to earn the starting placekicking job in August. He did that. Step two is to make some field goals. So far Lazzara doesn't have a lock on the job, or a scholarship.

He's the No. 1 placekicker, but he was pulled during the opener against Marshall after missing two field goals. Chris Campbell was sent in to attempt a game-tying field goal against Marshall. Campbell missed that kick and Lazzara was back as the No. 1 kicker the next week against Virginia.

He kicked field goals from 33 and 21 yards, but missed a field goal that was forgiven after a Virginia penalty and also missed an extra point.

He continues to battle Campbell for the starting job and his scholarship.

It's not exactly what Lazzara expected after hanging up the phone the night before signing day.

"There were a lot of other places that I could have gone and gotten a scholarship," he said. "My family was in a situation where the money was not an issue. I was blessed in that sense. In other ways it's an ego thing for me. It's been hard not getting a scholarship."

Lazzara was all-state at AA Shorecrest High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., for three years either as a place kicker or punter.

He was also a standout soccer player. He was selected as one of the top 18 players in his age group in Florida for six straight years. During his final year of soccer he was selected to a regional all-star team and then was named an All-American. However, he loved football more and gave up soccer.

On the football field he played running back and linebacker along with the kicking. During his junior year he rushed for 1700 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"In high school I loved running the ball and hitting people," he said. "I probably fell in love with the sport for the positions other than kicking. I was the guy to get the ball in the endzone."

Now, he's the guy to get it through the goal posts. "When you go in as a kicker, it's either in or it's out," he said. "It's not like being a linebacker. You've got another play or series where you can redeem yourself. You can make some mistakes and have it go unseen. When you're a kicker, everyone is watching you. They know what you've done."

By the end of the season, they'll probably also know if Lazzara has a scholarship.

"It's just a matter of getting better each week," he said. "I did better in the Virginia game than the Marshall game. That's what I'm asking of myself."

That's a promise he can keep.

***

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