Walk-on Adam Mihalek works his way into starting job as Florida Gators kicker
Last season, Florida football walk-on kicker Adam Mihalek was best known as one of the members of the “juice squad” — a sideline quartet that kept players and fans energized with different stunts and routines while not appearing on the field.
But a new coaching staff presented a new opportunity for Mihalek, who won the starting kicking job based on his consistency in spring and fall camp. Mihalek made the first two career field goal attempts — from 39 and 50 yards — last week during UF’s 26-16 loss to Kentucky.
“Adam’s been impressive since the day we got here,” coach Billy Napier said. “He was able to take advantage of an opportunity in spring practice. He was able to get reps and he has earned it.”
The 50-yarder was the longest for a UF kicker since Evan McPherson, now kicking for the Cincinnati Bengals, drilled a 50-yarder against Georgia on Nov. 7, 2020.
“It felt amazing, putting in all the time, work and effort and hitting something like that in a game,” Mihalek said. “It’s pretty special.”
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Adam Mihalek was a soccer player first
Mihalek’s path to UF began as a kicker at Wiregrass High School in Tampa. A high school soccer standout, Mihalek didn’t begin kicking until his junior year in high school. He caught the attention of college coaches with a strong showing at the Kornblue Kicking Academy, ranking second in the country.
Army and Navy both offered scholarships, but Mihalek instead opted to take a preferred walk-on spot at Florida, offered from former special teams analyst Shayne Graham.
“I always wanted to play at a big school,” Mihalek said. “I wanted to play in the SEC. The SEC is pretty awesome. I really love the Gators. We moved from New Jersey so I didn’t really know much but when I first got here, everyone was like, ‘OK, you either have to pick Florida or FSU,’ and I was like, ‘OK, then I’m going to go to Florida.’ ”
After not appearing on the field last season, Mihalek realized he had a clean slate when Napier was hired in December. He made a subtle change in kicking mechanics, going from a jab step to a two-step approach. He also focused on keeping his plant foot straighter.
The results first showed in UF’s spring game, when Mihalek made field goals from 52 and 48 yards.
“I focused more on perfect contact,” Mihalek said. “I remember when I first started kicking I would just like whale on the ball, which I mean, it’s not going to be accurate every time. So I learned every time if you hit the sweet spot perfectly every single time you don’t have to whale on it all the time.”
Still, Mihalek had to beat out a scholarship kicker, freshman Trey Smack, to earn the job in the fall.
“He wants to do his job for the team,” Napier said. “It means something to him. He’s got ability, and he’s got skill that he has worked hard to develop.”
For now, Mihalek is handling both kickoffs and field goals, but Napier said Smack could end up kicking the ball off as well.
“Trey is a really good kickoff guy, and he is getting healthy,” Napier said. “He was hitting some great balls out here today. So we’re blessed. I think we’ve got two really talented kickers.”