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Ready for the Spotlight

Ready for the Spotlight

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – For Jose Borregales there were no weights to lift, no 40-yard dash to run.

That doesn’t mean his workout during Miami’s Pro Day last month was any less scrutinized than those of his former Hurricanes teammates who participated in a series of high-profile events and position drills that seemingly define the pre-draft process.

After all, he was asked to kick under the watchful gaze of an NFL coaching legend who has won a record six Super Bowls.

No pressure, right?

“I knew the Patriots and Bill Belichick and their special teams coordinator were there…When coach Belichick came in, I introduced myself, said hello and then continued with my routine,” Borregales said. “I kind of had to block everything out. It can’t matter who is watching. I was just out there having fun and kicking the ball and making them through the uprights.

“At the end of the day, you can’t show you’re nervous or you have jitters or anything like that. You just have to go out there and perform.”

Since arriving at Miami as a graduate transfer last year, Borregales has done nothing but perform for the Hurricanes.

Last fall, he converted on 20 of 22 field goals and was a perfect 37 of 37 on extra-point attempts. He was 9 of 11 on field goals of 40 yards or longer and didn’t miss on any of his 11 attempts inside that distance.

In his second game as a Hurricane, he kicked a 57-yard field goal against Louisville that wasn’t just the longest kick of his collegiate career, but one that also tied a Miami record he now shares with Michael Badgley, who hit from that distance in 2015, and Danny Miller, who connected from there in 1981.

Borregales did more than put points on the board for the Hurricanes.

He also helped them with field position, notching 51 touchbacks on his 72 kickoff attempts. He earned consensus All-American recognition, becoming the first Hurricane to accomplish that feat since Antrel Rolle in 2004. And in December, he made Miami history when he became the program’s first Lou Groza Award winner.

Now, Borregales is projected to be the first kicker taken in this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday in Cleveland.

That’s all heady stuff for the native Venezuelan who grew up playing soccer and was, as a 9-year-old, initially drawn to football more for the equipment he’d get to wear than the game itself.

“Me, my mom and my brother went to the park by my house and there were kids wearing their helmets, running around with a football. At the time, I didn’t know what it was. It was just a weird-shaped ball to me,” Borregales laughed. “But I thought the helmet was so cool and I wanted to wear one. I asked my mom to sign us up so I could get a helmet and it turned out it was an organized sport, which I didn’t know. That’s how my football career started. All I wanted was a helmet.”

Football, it turns out, has given Borregales plenty more.

It made him a state champion in high school. It helped him earn an undergraduate degree while rewriting the record book at FIU. And it gave him the opportunity to live a lifelong dream by playing for his hometown Hurricanes while pursuing a graduate degree at Miami.

A career in the NFL now awaits and Borregales doesn’t take any of that for granted.

“It means the world to have this opportunity. Who would have thought this would lead me to where I am today? I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and my entire life, things have been happening throughout to lead me where I am now,” he said. “I have no regrets of anything that I’ve done or the choices I’ve made. It’s led me here. I’m just blessed to be in the position that I’m in and hopefully, it’ll keep going.”

"I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and my entire life, things have been happening throughout to lead me where I am now."

Hurricanes kicker Jose Borregales

As much history as Borregales has already made, both at FIU and at Miami, the kicker stands to make more in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.

According to ProFootballReference.com, Venezuela has produced just two NFL players: Pat Ragusa and Alan Pringle. The two kickers combined to appear in just four games.

Borregales is hoping for more sustained success and though he grew up in the United States, he hopes he will inspire more Venezuelans to consider the sport.

“I think it’s a way of showing to people in my country that you can make it to this level even if you’re not from [the U.S] or you really played the sport starting out,” Borregales said. “I only lived there for five, six years so I’m more American at this point. But at the end of the day, I carry the flag with me everywhere I go and it’s good to represent the people of Venezuela in whatever I am doing.”

He also knows he’ll be representing Miami moving forward and that he’ll have the opportunity to add his name to an already incredibly rich NFL history for the program.

That, too, he says, is special. And he knows his work will begin in earnest this week.

“Going into [last] season, I knew I had to prepare more than ever before…I think that’s the biggest thing I’ll take with me now to hopefully get on an NFL team, the work ethic I had this offseason,” Borregales said. “I want to just continue to build on my technique and perfect everything I’ve been doing so that I can have success in the NFL as I hopefully get picked.”