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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers kicker Zane Gonzalez

Mar 24, 2023 at 6:41 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers filled one of their biggest roster holes Friday by acquiring veteran kicker Zane Gonzalez from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a conditional late-round pick swap in 2025. Gonzalez's arrival seems to signal a farewell to kicker Robbie Gould, who appears to be moving on from the 49ers after six seasons.

What should 49ers fans know about Gonzalez? Let's take a look.

What Gonzalez brings to the 49ers

If he indeed wins the starting job in San Francisco, Gonzalez (27) will be the youngest starting kicker the 49ers have had in many years. Gould kicked with the 49ers until age 40, while the team's previous kicker, Phil Dawson, was 41 years old in his final season with the team.

Gonzalez (6-0, 200) has 63 NFL games under his belt and has connected on 91 of 113 kicks and 127 of 134 extra points. He has a career NFL long of 57 yards and kicked a 59-yard field goal in college at Arizona State.

Gonzalez would handle kickoffs for the 49ers if he won the job. He has a career touchback percentage of 57.8 percent on 287 kickoffs with an average of 62.7 yards.

It remains to be seen if the 49ers bring in another kicker to compete with Gonzalez. He's had some inconsistencies in his career but also has an impressive college resume to go with some good moments in the NFL.

One of the most prolific college kickers ever

Gonzalez rewrote the FBS record book during his college career at Arizona State. His 96 career field goals and 494 total points set all-time FBS records that have since been broken. Other records tied or broken by Gonzalez included being the first kicker in FBS to connect on 20 or more field goals in four seasons, most field goal attempts (115), and most records set by a kicker (six) while also matching the mark for field goals of 50 or more yards in a single game (three). Gonzalez was the 2016 winner of the Lou Groza Award, given to the top placekicker in college football, and was a unanimous All-American as a senior.

Gonzalez's college performance led to him being a seventh-round selection of the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft.

An up-and-down start to his NFL career

Gonzalez won the kicking job in Cleveland as a rookie, beating out veteran Cody Parkey in the preseason. He finished his rookie season with 15 field goals on 20 attempts with a long of 54 yards while connecting on 25 of 26 extra points.

Gonzalez's time in Cleveland wouldn't last much longer than that, however. He started out his 2018 season going 2-for-5 on field goals and 3-of-5 on extra points, with four of those missed kicks (two field goals, two extra points) coming in a 21-18 Week 2 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Gonzalez's final attempt with the Browns was a missed last-second 52-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game. Gonzalez was reportedly kicking with a slightly torn groin against the Saints, but the Browns put him on waivers the day after the game.

Injury issues

Gonzalez caught on with the Arizona Cardinals as a practice squad player later in the season, then eventually took over the kicking spot after starter Phil Dawson sustained an injury.

Gonzalez stayed with the Cardinals through the 2020 season and connected on 54-of-66 field goals and 77 of 80 extra points. Gonzalez was consistent in 2019, connecting on 31-of-35 field goals and 34-of-35 extra points, but he fell to 16-of-22 on field goals the following season. His time with the Cardinals came to an end after being placed on injured reserve in December of 2020 with a back injury, as the Cardinals wound up cutting Gonzalez in March of 2021.

The Detroit Lions signed Gonzalez in August of 2021 and later added him as a practice squad player, then the Panthers signed him off the Lions' practice squad in September. Gonzalez put together a solid season in 2021, connecting on 20 of 22 field goals and 22 of 23 extra points, but his season came to a early end in December once again, this time due to a quad injury.

In August of 2022, Gonzalez suffered a season-ending injury under unusual circumstances, as he injured his groin before a preseason game while taking practice kicks into a kicking net. He has not kicked in a game since December of 2021.

His childhood set the table

According to a 2017 article by Cleveland.com, Gonzalez's sports career was sparked in part by his father Joseph, who gave his son a degree of freedom he didn't have growing up. Joseph had the opportunity to play soccer in college, but it was nixed by his father, Lino, who insisted on an education-first approach.

"When I was growing up, I said when I have my own kids I will be there for them but I will let them make their own decisions," Joseph told Cleveland.com.

Gonzalez participated in baseball, basketball, tennis, swimming, and soccer before becoming a kicker for the football team in junior high. Eventually his father gave him the freedom to choose his college destination, which wound up being Arizona State over Wisconsin -- his two scholarship offers.

"He thought I was going to make him go to Wisconsin," Joseph told Cleveland.com. "And I said, no, it's whatever makes you happy. I'm not the one that has to go to the school, you do. I want you to be happy wherever you're going to be at. So he was happy at Arizona State."


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