Anthony Fera

During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.

Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.

“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”

Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.

“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”

Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.

“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”

Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.

“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”

Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.

“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.

Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.

When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.

“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”

Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.

“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”

Anthony Fera made 20 of 22 field goals and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, while kicking for Texas this season. Now, Fera prepares for the NFL draft where he is expected to be a late round pick. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

It’s no anomaly seeing a Texas placekicker in the NFL. 

Justin Tucker was named first-team All-Pro this season for the Baltimore Ravens.

Phil Dawson holds the Cleveland Browns’ franchise record for most field goals made — more than Hall of Famer Lou Groza. 

And next season, the man who tied Dawson for the Texas consecutive field goal record, Anthony Fera, should be the third kicker on an NFL roster in 2014. 

But Fera’s college football journey wasn’t simple. 

After he opted to go to Penn State, he became a candidate for the Ray Guy Award — an award for the nation’s top punter — and a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, an award for the nation’s best kicker.

After Fera’s second year with the Nittany Lions, scandal broke. With Penn State facing a slew of penalties,  Fera decided to transfer, taking advantage of the NCAA allowed transfer without sitting out a year, but for a different reason: his mom.

“Shortly before I arrived on campus, the most important person in my life was diagnosed with MS, making it more and more difficult to travel each weekend from Texas to see me play,” Fera said in a statement following his decision to transfer. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to give back to my family and make their lives a little easier by transferring to a university much closer to home, The University of Texas.”

Fera was hampered by injuries in his first season on the 40 Acres. He missed the first four games of the 2012 season with a groin injury and the final three with a hip injury.

He entered his senior year healthy and started all 13 games, connecting on 20 of 22 field goals and missing just one extra point in 46 attempts. He was also the No. 1 punter on the depth chart, averaging 40.7 yards per punt.

His 90.9 field goal percentage placed him second all-time in Longhorns’ history and helped Fera become the first Texas consensus All-American kicker, and the first Lou Groza Award finalist in Longhorn history. 

Despite no game-winning, memorable field goals, Fera’s consistency has him poised to be a late round pick. and continue the legacy of successful Texas placekickers at the next level.

STOCK UP:

 

DE Jackson Jeffcoat (SR.)

Prior to the Texas Tech game on Thanksgiving, Jeffcoat had already logged two multi-sack games en route to a total of seven on the season. Apparently that wasn’t enough for the senior, who feasted on Red Raiders quarterbacks all night. By game’s end, Jeffcoat had added three more sacks — a career-high — bringing his season total to a whopping 10. If Texas is going to disrupt Baylor’s explosive offense, it’s going to need another huge effort from Jeffcoat.

 

WR Mike Davis (SR.)

Three weeks ago, Davis was in the midst of a three-game swoon during which he had four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Oh, how quickly things can change. The senior wideout has been on a tear the past three games, racking up a total of 16 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Davis has done most of his damage on big plays, as he has had a catch of at least 40 yards in all of those games. He has a career-high eight touchdowns on the season with two contests remaining, including a bowl game.

 

K/P Anthony Fera (SR.)

As Nick Saban and Alabama can attest to, you only notice a kicker when he’s not doing his job — and boy, that can hurt you. Fera has been nothing short of spectacular this season, making 19 of his 20 field goal attempts, including five of six from at least 40 yards. Considering the fact that he also handles the punting duties for the Longhorns, the senior has shown he is a one-man weapon on special teams.

 

STOCK DOWN:

 

RB/WR Daje Johnson (SO.)

Daje Johnson just can’t catch a break. After a scintillating start to the season when he had over 120 total yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico State, the sophomore out of Pflugerville has been plagued by injuries and a lack of production. Things hit rock bottom for him last week, when he was suspended for the Texas Tech game for a violation of team rules. In the seven games he has appeared in since the season opener, Johnson has a combined 160 yards of total offense.

 

Texas Punt Return Coverage

Falling for a fake punt is one thing — but letting a punter run 51 yards for a touchdown is on another level. Was anyone else feeling a little queasy watching Tech punter Ryan Erxleben throw up the “shhhh” sign — an index finger over his mouth — after he rumbled into the end zone? Fortunately, that nausea was alleviated once the Longhorns reeled off 41 of the game’s final 50 points.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

In the past two years, Anthony Fera has gone through transition. Probably more transition than the average person goes through in a decade.

The senior place-kicker and punter started his college career at Penn State, where he spent three years before deciding to transfer amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal. To make matters worse, his mother was ill and he had an injured groin during his first year at Texas.

“It was very emotional,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Part of the reason he moved was because of family illness and then he had a strain that we didn’t know about and then he re-strained it. He left the teammates that he cared so much about and came to a team that he didn’t even know. He came in late so his life was really in turmoil.”

Sanctions at Penn State allowed Fera to transfer to his desired school without sitting out a year. Numerous coaches immediately made their pitch to Fera, including co-offensive coordinator
Major Applewhite.

Fera eventually decided on Texas with a little outside help. While his family now lives in Austin, he grew up in Cypress, Texas, where he regularly kept track of his eventual alma mater.

Two of his older sisters graduated from Texas and made their cases for why he should become a Longhorn. Fera also wanted to be closer to home to be near his mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis not long before he made his decision.

“Definitely coming down here and visiting swayed me to come here, but it was a hard decision,” Fera said. “My sisters wanted me to come, they were big Texas fans. But my parents wanted me to do what I wanted to do so I made my decision from there.”

Ferak who will get degrees from both Penn State and Texas, didn’t have a great first year at the 40 Acres. He re-aggravated a groin injury, causing him to miss seven games last year. Fera was a mere 2-for-4 on field goal tries in 2012.

“Definitely last year was frustrating,” Fera said. “I was never 100 percent healthy. It always felt like something was just off a little bit. But working hard in the offseason, getting back to 100 percent, and winning the job in camp just gave me a confidence boost that the coaches had a lot of trust in me.”

The turmoil didn’t last long. The new, healthy Fera has started to make the most of his Texas career, making 17 of 18 field goal attempts this season. On Monday, he became the first Longhorn to be named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s
best kicker.

Kickers, usually the quirkiest of players, sometimes keep to themselves and the other special teams units but, for Fera, it didn’t take long to fit in with his new teammates.

“You know those kickers are always a little bit different, I don’t know if they do a whole lot of fitting in,” senior offensive guard Mason Walters said. “Fera is a great guy. I’ve hung out with him a little bit and got to know him. He’s still a kicker, a little quirky, but we don’t hold that against him as long as he does his job. “

Fera has connected on 94.4 percent of his field goal attempts this season, putting him on pace to set a school record in that category.

It has been a roller-coaster career for Fera but he has managed to become one of the nation’s best specialists.

“It’s been crazy, starting off with Penn State, going out there,” Fera said. “I redshirted my freshman year. The next two years I played. Last year transferring here, the sanctions and stuff, that was a pretty crazy experience. Coming here I think was the right decision for me and my family. So it’s been pretty crazy. Now this year, I’m just trying to do the best I can.”

STOCK UP:

WR Marcus Johnson (So.)

After managing a pedestrian six catches over the first five games of the season, Johnson burst onto the scene two weeks ago against Oklahoma, hauling in a 59-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Case McCoy. His encore performance last week was even better — he caught three passes for 120 yards, including a 65-yard bomb that gave Texas a 17-7 lead before play was stopped due to inclement weather. Keep an eye out for the sophomore speedster this week, as he should have plenty of opportunities to break out against an overmatched Kansas defense.

 

CB Quandre Diggs (Jr.)

The most talented player in the Longhorns secondary has added another dynamic to his game: rushing the passer. Over the past several games Diggs has coupled his elite coverage skills with an ability to come off the edge in exotic blitz packages, recording a sack against TCU to give him 2.5 sacks in Texas’ last three contests. Although he has yet to haul in an interception this year, that is largely a product of teams fearing him too much to throw in his direction. Despite a lack of play-making opportunities, Diggs is continuing to find a way to help this defense.

 

K/P Anthony Fera (Sr.)

Serving as both the kicker and the punter for Texas, it’s hard to ignore what Fera has done this year. He’s made 11 of 12 field goal attempts, including all four tries of 40 yards or more — not too shabby for a guy who only made two out of four field goal attempts all of last season. Fera has twice set a new career long for field goals this season, making a 47-yarder earlier this year before nailing one from 50 yards out against Oklahoma. Although his longest attempt against TCU was “only” from 43 yards, he still went 3-for-3 while averaging 40 yards per punt.

 

 

STOCK DOWN:

Case McCoy’s Completion Percentage:

Although McCoy has never been known for the deep ball, he’s been slinging it lately: he finished with 208 yards through the air on Saturday despite, completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Considering 120 of these yards came on three completions to Marcus Johnson and he threw two interceptions, it’s clear the senior signal caller wasn’t exactly Mr. Consistency against the Horned Frogs.

 

Johnathan Gray’s touchdown total:

No, his number of touchdowns didn’t drop against TCU, but they didn’t go up either. Despite averaging 19 carries and 94 yards a game, Gray only has four touchdowns this entire season and has been held out of the end zone in four of the Longhorns’ seven games. While this isn’t so much of a knock against Gray as it is a product of Texas choosing to spread the ball around, he’d like to see that number go up against the Jayhawks. 

Stock up

Kendall Sanders

There wasn’t much to be proud of on either side of the ball Saturday night in Provo, but Kendall Sanders’ first collegiate game was a bit of a bright spot. Following his Week 1 suspension for a DUI last spring, Sanders hauled in four catches for 36 yards and flashed a few of the traits that had everyone so high on him coming into the season. Sanders’ possesses elite speed, good hands and solid route running abilities. While David Ash was under siege most of the night preventing him from getting the ball out on time, Sanders did prove that he could be a big piece of the offense heading forward. 

Anthony Fera

Fera averaged 43.8 yards per punt on his eight (not a misprint) attempts and tried valiantly to give the Longhorns a field position edge against BYU. After losing Duke transfer Alex King this offseason, there was a bit of concern heading into 2013 as to how the Longhorns special teams would be able to replace his average 45.3 yards per punt. Anthony Fera seems like a more than viable option two games into the season, even if he got more face timeSaturday than anyone would have liked to see. 

 

Stock Down

The offensive line

David Ash and the running backs had no chance Saturday night as the BYU front stayed in the Longhorns back field nearly all night. Texas averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry and allowed four sacks, eventually forcing Ash to tap out of the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury. Mack Brown said going into the BYU game that he wanted his team to be physical and the offensive line failed over and over again. All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy couldn’t be blocked and the offense never really got anything established. If last week was the litmus test, the offensive line failed with miserable grades. 

Steve Edmond

Edmond went into the season as the starting middle linebacker, and he did nothing on Saturday to calm any of those concerns. Blown assignments and missed tackles were prevalent in his game, and while he certainly wasn’t the only one responsible for the school record 550 rushing yards given up, he did nothing to help. Consider the middle linebacker job a question mark until someone steps up to fill the void.

Sophomore Jaxon Shipley makes a catch against Iowa State on Saturday afternoon. Shipley had 137 yards on eight receptions. After several games of inactivity, Shipley turned in a convincing performance.   

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns played their best overall game in conference play.

The offense was explosive en route to 609 yards, and David Ash was excellent. He completed 81 percent of his passes, throwing for 364 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Longhorn rushing attack was also potent, pounding a stout Iowa State front seven for 222 yards on the ground.

Texas’ defense also put on its best display since the non-conference schedule. The Longhorns held the Cyclones to only 277 yards of offense and seven points.

“I’m slowly gaining confidence,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “We are getting better game-by-game. We still have a long way to go. But slowly but surely, we are getting better at the run defense.”

Quarter by Quarter 
First: The Longhorns made a fitting tribute to Darrell K Royal, lining up in the wishbone on the first play of the game. But they scored touchdowns on their next two possessions. The first came on a five-yard Johnathan Gray run, and the second on 61-yard touchdown pass to Mike Davis
Second: Texas’ offense slowed down a bit, scoring only on a pass to Barrett Matthews, but an Anthony Fera field goal attempt was blocked. The defense allowed its only touchdown of the game in the quarter, when the Cyclones scored with just 41 seconds remaining in the half. 
Third: This was the slowest moving quarter. Only three points were scored on a field goal by Nick Jordan, who replaced Fera as the place kicker. Neither offense had much success moving the ball. Fourth: The Longhorns iced the game in this frame. Texas had the ball for just under 12 minutes of the quarter as the rushing attack imposed its will. Case McCoy also saw some snaps in relief of Ash late in the game, throwing for 23 yards.

By the Numbers 
47: The number of yards Texas’ opening play from scrimmage went, as the Longhorns lined up in the wishbone in honor of Royal. 
38:12: Texas’ time of possession in the game. The Longhorns held the ball for 64 percent of the contest. 
364: Number of passing yards Ash had Saturday, a career high. 
7: Davis’ rank on the Longhorns all-time receiving yards list after his 113-yard performance.

Stock Up 
Jaxon Shipley: Early in the season the sophomore wide receiver was Ash’s favorite target, but as the season has worn on, Shipley has seen less and less of the ball.
That changed against Iowa State. Shipley caught eight balls for 137 yards, the first time he’s gone over 100 yards all season. Actually, he had more yards Saturday then he did in the past four games combined.

Stock Down: 
Anthony Fera: Fera transferred in from Penn State to solidify Texas’ kicking position after Justin Tucker graduated. And with two games remaining he hasn’t done much. 
Fera missed the first four games of the season with a groin injury and hasn’t played much better since. He’s only 1-of-3 on the year and was benched after a missed field goal in the second quarter. He was replaced by Jordan, who went 2-of-2 in the game.

What’s Next: 
Texas will get a bye week before it plays TCU on Thanksgiving. The week off should allow the players to get healthy and allow the coaches to add more wrinkles to the playbook. 
TCU heads into the game at 6-4, and will also come off a bye. TCU features a stingy defense and a running quarterback in Trevone Boykin, who will challenge Texas’ run defense.

Following an unfortunate set of circumstances, Anthony Fera found himself in search of a new place to play football. Texas was a logical choice for him to land considering he's from the Houston area. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Anthony Fera’s decision to leave Penn State this offseason was more complicated than any other Nittany Lion transfer.

While sanctions and controversy were surrounding the University, the kicker was dealing with something much more personal. Soon before he arrived on the Penn State campus in 2009, his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

A Cypress, Texas, native, Fera had the opportunity to transfer to Texas and be closer to home, and he took it.

“It was really hard,” Fera said. “I was there for three-and-a-half years I really loved it there. But I had to make a family decision.”

He doesn’t hesitate in calling his mom the most important person in his life.

Before coming back to his home state, he lived in a house with seven of his friends. He was the only roommate to transfer and his decision to leave his life at Penn State was extremely difficult. But his roommates understood and where his priorities stood.

Fera knew what he had to do and that family comes first. While he was closer to home, things weren’t always easy for Fera on the field.

When Mack Brown saw him kick for the first time, Fera restrained his groin. The injury would keep him out for the Longhorns’ first four games of the season.

During that time period, freshman Nick Jordan kicked for the Longhorns and went 3-for-7 on field goal attempts.

Once Fera was healthy enough to step on the playing field, he didn’t make the impact he had originally hoped for. During the Longhorns’ loss to West Virginia, Fera’s first game in burnt orange, he went 1-for-2 and missed what would have been a game-tying 41-yard field goal late in the Longhorns’ eventual 48-45 loss.

During Oklahoma’s rout of Texas on Saturday, Fera’s only action was a missed extra point attempt.

Both of his sisters graduated from Texas, and though he is a Longhorn now, he has different plans. He will still graduate from Penn State.

“He promised Coach Paterno when he got to Penn State he would graduate from Penn State,” Brown said. “I do have compassion for the Penn State program and even my friendship with Coach and Sue Paterno, and at the same time this young man reached out to us and had some circumstances that were beyond football, and we felt like that we could also help him and we also need to do what was best for Texas because he needed to get closer to home.”

Everything that happened with former coach Jerry Sandusky and the death of Joe Paterno was very emotional for Fera. He has had the opportunity to be coached by both Paterno and Brown, two of the most influential and successful coaches in college football history.

He feels lucky to have that opportunity. Though he is sad to see the struggles of the Penn State program, he is confident head coach Bill O’Brien and the rest of the staff will get the program back to where it once was.

“Everything that went down, it was sad to see what happened,” Fera said. “You know, I really loved it there. It’s such a great university. Just kind of got a little messed up from one guy. They’re trying to overcome it. O’Brien is doing a great job up there.”

Printed on Friday, October 19, 2012 as: Rocky offseason forces PSU expat to adjust quickly

West Virginia running back Andrew Buie breaks a tackle by the Longhorn defense on Saturday night. The Mountaineers rushed for 192 yards against the Longhorns with Buie rushing for 207 yards and had two touchdowns. 

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

If you would have told Mack Brown before the game that Texas would have held Geno Smith to 268 yards, won the turnover battle and blocked a kick and a punt, he would have felt great about his team’s chances.

The Longhorns were able to do all of those things, but West Virginia’s knack for converting on fourth downs and a bungled offensive sequence in the middle of the fourth quarter led to a 48-45 Mountaineers victory. 

“It’s frustrating, and we left a lot on the table,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “[There were] a lot of plays that we could have made and a lot of possessions that we should have taken advantage of.”

Texas’ biggest opportunity of the contest came in the middle of the fourth quarter after defensive end Alex Okafor bulled his way through the line to take a huge swipe at Smith’s throwing arm, forcing a fumble that Chris Whayley was able to recover on the West Virginia 12-yard line.

At that moment the momentum of the game had seemingly swung. The Longhorns were jumping around on the sideline, and the stands were almost swaying underneath the intensity of the crowd.

But after two short runs from Joe Bergeron, Texas was sitting at 3rd-and-6 with the play clock winding down. David Ash hurried to the line to make an adjustment after the Mountaineers showed blitz, and the cadence seemed to get lost. The ball was snapped and Ash was not ready. The ball went straight through his hands and bounded behind him, costing Texas 16 yards of field position.

“That was my fault,” Ash said. “I let the play clock get down so low. I just should have caught it.”

The fumble took Texas out of short field goal range and put the game on the leg of Anthony Fera, who was making his debut as a Longhorn — he missed the first three games of the season with a groin injury — after transferring from Penn State.

It was the kind of kick that Texas kickers have consistently drilled in Brown’s time in Austin. He cannot remember a time in 15 years where his kicker missed a kick with the game on the line. But from 42 yards out, Fera could not convert. He pushed the ball right and left the Longhorns down by three with five minutes left to play.

“It’s just disappointing we didn’t finish,” Brown said.

After the missed kick, the Mountaineers were able to pound an exhausted Texas front all the way down the field, and they punched in the game-winning touchdown with a minute and 12 seconds left to play. It was the type of drive that defined the night for the Texas defense. It was not able to stop the run and could not get West Virginia off of the field when it needed to. West Virginia running back Andrew Buie rushed for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The defense held the Mountaineers to 3-of-12 on third downs, but Smith was brilliant when he needed to be, leading his team to a perfect 5-of-5 conversion rate on fourth downs.

“The execution on some of those fourth-down throws was outstanding,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “There were some 50-50 balls on that down and distance, and they all went their way.”

Printed on Monday, October 8, 2012 as: Mountaineers outlast Horns

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin carries the ball in the first half.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Anthony Fera started the scoring off the scoring in the second half by hitting his first field goal as a Longhorn.  The 38-yard field goal put the Longhorns up 31-27.
          
Geno Smith hit Stedman Bailey for his second touchdown of the night on a 9-yard beauty in the back of the end zone. 
          
Ash threw a 23-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley to get the West Virginia 35-yard line.  The Longhorns took advantage of the field position and Bergeron scored his fourth touchdown of the game with a 4-yard run, putting the Longhorns up 38-34.
          
Bailey’s third touchdown catch of the game gave the Mountaineers a 41-38 lead.
          
Texas failed to convert on a forth and thirteen, giving the Mountaineers the ball on their own 39-yard line. But, it didn’t seem to matter and Alex Okafor forced his second fumble of the game and Chris Whaley recovered the ball at the West Virginia 12.
          
But, the defense’s heroics didn’t matter. A botched snap gave the Longhorns a loss of 16-yards and Anthony Fera missed the 41-yard field goal wide right.  The score remained in favor of the Mountaineers by three.
          
West Virginia’s Andrew Buis rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to increase the Mountaineer’s lead to 48-38.
          
Ash brought the Longhorns closer to the Mountaineers with a 8-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin.  But it wasn’t enough and the Mountaineers handed the Longhorns their first loss of the season, 48-45.