Carlos Huerta

Tracking proCanes - Carlos Huerta - Part II

In Part II of our interview with Carlos Huerta he talks about the differences between Coach Johnson and Coach Erickson, how he got the number 27, where he thought the toughest place to play was, what he thinks of the current state of Hurricane football and much more! Click here to read Part I of our EXCLUSIVE interview with Carlos Huerta.

pC: So what would you say was the toughest part about playing at Miami?
CH: Once I made the team it wasn’t tough. It was earning the starting position. After that, I would say what kept me focused was you know, we had such great athletes on offense and defense, leading scoring team in the nation just about, number one defense almost every year. I always felt like alright, “I can’t lag behind those guys, I don’t want to be the weak link” so I kind of made it a point to really be on top of my game, but once you’re a starter you’re given every opportunity to succeed and coming from that position that I told you about where I was kind of treated like garbage, I never wanted to go back there. I kept clean, I went to class, I tried to keep my mouth shut usually and work hard so I’d perform well. But you know the coaching staff and this team definitely seemed to always put me in a position to succeed and I didn’t want to let them down, but making the team was the toughest.

pC: What would you say was your favorite memory? Does it come down to a specific kick you made or the National Championships?
CH: My favorite memories are winning those very high profile games. Beating Florida State when they were ranked number one, my first game ever.

pC: The was the game FSU made the rap video for. . .
CH: Correct. 1988 and it was prime time TV, I think it was a Monday night game. We were on ABC prime time. Winning at Michigan, beating Notre Dame here, beating the Nebraskas, LSU, Alabama and the Sugar Bowl, Texas and the Cotton Bowl. You know I used to watch those games as a fan and it was surreal to actually be on the team and win, I thought I was in fantasy land. So it wasn’t so much my individual performances. The way I looked at it is, if I made a game winning field goal or an important kick, I HAD to do that or I’d be letting my team down so you know you can’t win by yourself so it was the team aspect and winning those big games that is indescribable when you grow up being the fan of a hometown school and being in that position.

pC: Talk about being in the room when Jimmy Johnson popped in the FSU’s rap video for all of you to see.
CH: The one thing about our teams as intense as they were, great players, great athletes, and I’m sure it’s similar in a lot of other places, but I specifically remember those UM teams, we had a lot of very funny guys on the team so anytime anything outrageous occurred the reactions of our teammates was what I always looked for because they were hilarious. The shock factor was good in and of itself, but to see the reactions of the players; they just went off. When that video was shown to us and then to see the reaction of these players was funny but it almost made me think there’s no way we’re losing that game because these guys are going to go bonkers on Monday night. It almost, in my head, took the pressure off because I saw everybody was ready.

pC: You played with a bunch of greats to say the least, if you could name one who would you say was the top player you played with at UM?
CH: There are so many and it’s so difficult, but I’m kind of also the typical fan that’s impressed with the premier players, the wide receiver and the running back that make such exciting plays so I’m not going to give the Russell Marylands and the Cortex Kennedys and the Greg Marks, the line backers [Jesse} Armstead, [Michael]Barrow, [Darrin] Smith, what they deserve. There just are so many. I just have to say this; one thing that amazes me is the kick off coverage team. This is what amazes me, when we beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in 89-90, usually in college you could travel a lot of players and it’s the younger players who do the special teams. I think that there were eight eventual NFL Pro Bowl players covering kickoffs for our team at the time, so how can you pick? If you start going down the line they may not have made the Pro Bowl every year, but they at least made the Pro Bowl once. That same team set a record, I wasn’t the punter, but the total return yardage against our team that year all season, not average, was 4 yards TOTAL.

pC: On punt returns?
CH: Yeah, punt returns those are basically the same guys covering punts. So Darrin Smith was an absolute freak of nature because he was so fast. Darryl Williams, the safety, was amazing. There were some younger players that amazed me talent-wise that maybe aren’t as great in everybody’s mind but, Horace Copeland was such a freak of nature so fast, so strong. Chris T. Jones was amazing, Steve McGuiire before his knee injury was phenomenal. Gino was a great quarterback but in terms of prototype college quarterback for me, Walsh was incredible, he just always made the right decisions.

pC: He didn’t have the strongest arm but.
CH: Right and that’s probably why he didn’t start in the NFL for as long as he could have. We had some great running backs, I don’t feel I was a teammate of Melvin Bratton, I was a redshirt that year, and I was only with him for that season, but he was incredible to see play. One of my roommates that blew out his knee and later never started as much but in practice as a linebacker was one of the most amazing players I ever saw was Matt Britton. He was number 99, he ended up backing up Michael Barrow and playing a lot when they played the four linebackers. He just wasn’t the same after his knee injury but what he would do in practice, he would just terrorize the offense, and not just because he was my roommate. There were just so many players. To watch Brett Perriman and Randall Hill run they would look like they weren’t human, so I could just go on and on. There were just some really, really talented guys.

pC: Who were you closest with? Your best friends?
CH: I’d say Mario Cristobal, Matt Britton were probably my two closest friends, we were roommates and Eric Miller.

pC: Any coaches you still talk to?
CH: Rob Chudzinski, he’s a coach now, he was my teammate. I’m still real close with him. He’s out west. I speak with him. You know, I run into Jimmy Johnson here and there, it’s not like I call him up on the phone but its really good to see him during our functions, but there aren’t many of them that I really call up on the phone, but I actually was thinking about giving Dennis Erickson a call recently.

pC: You played under Jimmy and Dennis. Jimmy is the fiery type and kept everybody in line and Dennis is perceived as kind of loose and let the players run the show. Many people say Dennis was given the keys to the Porsche told not to wreck it. Talk about that difference and was it as a loose as it’s portrayed under Dennis?
CH: That’s a good question. When I think back on those two coaches, they are extremely different, no doubt. I kind of think of Jimmy Johnson as a more defensive and special teams kind of coach. He always preached to win all three phases and we were really good at winning all three phases when he was here and he really monitored those two aspects of the game. It seems like he really didn’t touch the offense at all that was Gary Stevens’ domain. It was a brilliant thing to do because Gary Stevens was a great offensive coordinator. Jimmy was brilliant for doing that and letting the right guy do that yet I think after that Penn State loss, which I was just a fan I wasn’t on the team, I don’t know how he was before that but Jimmy Johnson just would not let you breathe on special teams if you weren’t doing it right. I think we had the best special teams in the country. I think that Penn State game was lost not because of Vinny Testaverde. I think they got whipped on special teams. Granted Vinny did not have his usual game, but if they would have played well on special teams, they still would have won that game and Johnson was a fanatic about it and it showed on the field, we were phenomenal.

Dennis was an offensive genius. He really was great on offense and again he was also pretty smart in letting Sonny Lubick run the defense. He was a really good defensive coordinator and he kind of let him do that and we had an amazing defense. My senior year we were number one in the country and it wasn’t because of Dennis, I mean he oversaw it, but he let the right guy run it. So in terms of giving the keys to the Porsche, I’ve heard that statement too, I think that’s probably true. While I was here with Dennis, did we have some problems and issues? Yeah, we had some disciplinary issues, we did some things that were incorrect but on the field I thought that we were a disciplined football team. I think that a lot of the players at the time were Johnsons’ and we had been educated under that system and we were a well oiled machine but you’ve got to give Erickson credit for not coming and putting in a different oil and ruining the engine. I mean you’ve got to give him the credit. They were polar opposites in style and method though. I thought they both worked, I considered Johnson one of the most influential people I’ve ever been exposed to though. He is a genius in a lot of ways and an incredible talent. Dennis I think did an amazing job, but Johnson I think was just an incredibly talented guy.

pC: So were you one of the players actively asking for Gary Stevens after Jimmy Johnson left?
CH: Yes.

pC: Talk a little bit about that. Was it a group of players that went to then Athletic Director Sam Jankovich’s office?
CH: You know I didn’t do that, I think there was a group that did that, but I was definitely vocal in the local newspapers and in interviews. I was once referred to as the team spokesperson, which I don’t think I was, but I was really lobbying for Gary Stevens. Gary had proven himself as offensive coordinator and we wanted him he was our own guy.

pC: Why the number 27?
CH: Do you know that story?

pC: No
CH: Oh. That’s pretty funny. For me it is. Johnson’s management style was that he really kind of kept you guessing lots of times. Now it’s less, but we had like 95 scholarship players and we had like 18 substantial walk-ons. So we’re already over 110. So I was just this walk-on that nobody expected to ever do anything, so I didn’t have a number. Our largest offensive lineman was 6’9 and he moved to tightend for the Oklahoma game because he was going to be a special blocker as a dual tightend and so they gave me his jersey, 6 foot 9, 300 pound guy’s jersey. I wore that jersey at that Orange Bowl and it was beyond a long sleeve shirt. Well, I tucked it in, I think they ripped the name off the back so I wasn’t Schaffer, but I was number 78. So I never really had a number, I was a piece of garbage. So I told you that whole story about how I got a little bit of a shot during spring and Kim and I competed for the job and I didn’t even know I was going to be the starting kicker. I had my head down, showing up to work everyday doing the best I could, none of the coaches ever told me I was going to be the starting kicker.

pC: Until when?
CH: None of them ever did! So we had our orange and white game and I had a very good scrimmage and Edgar’s leg was done, he could barely kick and he didn’t. It was starting to get close to the time where the coaches would pin down all our starters so I’m optimistic and hoping I get the job. Jimmy Johnson’s office used to be where the academic offices are now and I was walking by his office and I never really wanted to hang out by his office, I needed to go by his office because I had to get to a meeting or something and he saw me flying by and he yelled at me and he said ‘hey Carlos!’ and I went and took a couple of steps back and said “yeah coach.” He says ‘you did really well last night’ and I said, “ok thanks I felt pretty good.” I missed the 55-yarder by a little bit and said “I wish I would have got the 55-yarder but thanks” and that was it. So I think there were five days before the Florida State game and I think the next morning or something Rich Davenport who I think is still with the Dallas Cowboys asks me to go do an interview. I was in his office and he says ‘here, by the way, here’s your jersey. You’re number 27.’ Not ‘hey you’re playing in the game’ but I didn’t want to ask the question because if you’re doing well you just want to act like you are the guy, so I kind of looked up at him and Rich was always great to me, he really looked out for me I thought, and he’s a great guy. I remember he was standing and I was sitting and I kind of looked up and go “I don’t even get a chance to choose a number?” and he says ‘nope, because the only other number left is number 55 and its just way too big for you, so you’re number 27.’ And that’s how I found out I was playing in the game. It was obviously a really, really huge moment for me, I wanted that job and worked really hard for it.

pC: And you kept the number. I’m sure maybe you could have changed it later on if you had a choice?
CH: Remember, I was very superstitious my first two years, I wasn’t about to change that number, it was working! [Laughter]

pC: Were you an All-American your senior and your junior years?
CH: As a freshman I was a freshman All-American and then sophomore and junior I was either honorable mention or third team or something. Then my senior year I think I was consensus All-American. I’m pretty sure, but yeah I was Walter Camp, and AP and Kodak which I think at the time were the All-American teams.

pC: Did you have a nickname?
CH: Just ‘The Ice Man.’ Still to this day, it stuck. I mean I don’t think they would all call me that but yeah, my high school coach gave me that name.

pC: What would you say was the toughest place to play?
CH: The toughest place to kick in terms of conditions that I ever played in was Missouri because I remember there were 40 something mile an hour winds coming off the plains and you just didn’t know what the ball was going to do. You could kick it perfectly and totally miss or kick it kind of bad and the wind would carry it in. In terms of stadiums, and irritating crowds, I’d say Florida State and Notre Dame are rough, really rough.

pC: Would they taunt you a lot?
CH: Oh everybody would. I mean they were just right on top of you. The screaming and the yelling right on top of you because once they get a little bit of distance from you it all kind of sounds the same but it was just a real tight stadium and they kind of get in your ear and you can hear what they’re saying.

pC: Who would you say was the most influential person in developing your kicking game specifically?
CH: I never had a coach in kicking. Nobody really worked with me technically. I was just a soccer player that knew how to kick.

pC: No formal training?
CH: Zero.

pC: I thought they got special outside coaches?
CH: They do, but on most staffs there are no knowledgeable kicking personnel. They’re just on their own. ‘Hey you’re good, you’re talented, you figure it out.’ But I never had a technical kicking conversation with my high school coach, or Jimmy Johnson, or my special teams coach. You know maybe the special teams coach at the time might have noticed my plant foot might have gone too far and pointed something out every once in a while but no one really ever coached me in that regard. I practiced a lot and I had a natural stroke. I could kick a ball at 6 years old further than most 13 year olds. It wasn’t that I was strong I just had technique, like I said I played soccer every season since I was seven years old and I’d always take the free kicks and just knew how to do it. My high school coach really taught me the mental aspect of kicking and whatever he did worked. He put me in game-like situations everyday and Jimmy Johnson did the same thing and that’s the key because if you don’t make it like a game-like situation, you get into a game and it’s very different. It’s like shooting darts or being out there in war and having to kill somebody is different, you know it’s not that extreme, but kind of. Anybody can leisurely go out and just kick the ball but everybody’s rushing at you and you’ve got to get it off real fast and you’re dealing with the movement of the ball from the holder, the intensity and then a real line jumping up to try and block your kick where you’ve got to get accustomed to getting it up quickly or if not, you’re going to get stuffed. So what they did in practice in making everybody work really hard and making sure that the line wasn’t taking reps off during field goal drills, that really made a big difference

pC: What would you say was the toughest transition for you going professional? I would imagine kicking is the same anywhere you do it.
CH: Yeah, you know a lot of people say that the ball is different and it doesn’t have stripes versus it having stripes.

pC: Isn’t it a little bigger?
CH: The ball is slightly different but it doesn’t affect the kick to me at all. It weighs the same, it feels the same. Again it was that transition of being in such a well run top program and all the pro franchises are not and dealing with the different management and how things are run. When it runs poorly that trickles down to every phase of the game, the players, their attitude and I felt like in the NFL or at least when I was there, a lot of these coaching staffs [were not very impressive] except Marv Leevy’s. Marv Leevy’s team was impressive. He had been there for so long, his coaching staff was excellent, he was excellent. I would have loved to have made that team because of him, but I felt like on the other teams I was on, everyone was either so paranoid to lose their job that they were so stressed out that it was unhealthy, it was an unhealthy mental environment and it was counterproductive to being a really top performer. So that was pretty tough because everybody around you is on edge, it’s almost like they assume the worst and that’s not a good environment.

pC: It just seems that it’s more of a business.
CH: Yeah, we felt it was a business in college but maybe it’s more, it’s just more pressure you know? I think the fact that there’s a mentality that the pros are being paid and its okay to rag on them and boo them, not that you don’t get ragged on as a college player, but I think there’s more empathy from the fans and the media when you’re just a college kid and not being paid. People don’t get on you as much; I think that does kind of add to the tension you know.

pC: Did you have any other Hurricane teammates when you were with the Bears?
CH: Pat Riley. I think that was it.

pC: Talk about the whole U family. It sounds like you stay well connected. Talk about that bond.
CH: Well we said back then that playing here and being a part of this program may be the most fortunate and best opportunity that we ever would have in our lives. To be a part of a number one program in anything, especially something that you care about and work at, you consider yourself really fortunate and I think that there was some tension at times and everything didn’t always go smoothly but once you get to a level where you’re performing that well and things go that well and you’re that successful, you form bonds that last forever and I think that’s the way it is. We all knew that pushing each other would lead to great success and we knew how to push each other’s buttons for the most part in the right way and it was just a unique situation that I don’t think many of us ever experienced again. You know I think Jimmy Johnson did it with the Dallas Cowboys and I was lucky enough to do it in the Canadian League but it was only for one year and then the team was broken up. We had you five years of continuous success. Those bonds you form, the people that you end up trusting those times usually its something that you don’t lose and that’s the way we are and even those older players that I didn’t play with when they see me they remember me and they know that I affected things positively. You just don’t let that go.

pC: Would you come back soon after you left? Would you help your successor Dane Pruitt?
CH: A lot. I worked with Dane quite a bit. I got cut and I was living here. I was still training because I was still getting tryouts and workouts quite frequently and then signing again so I was taking my workouts really seriously, I would work out in the gym too.

pC: At UM?
CH: Yeah they’d let me workout there, I’d use their fields. The equipment manager would let me use the balls still and I would work with Dane quite a bit, not necessarily during their practice because that was an NCAA violation. I couldn’t go out there and practice but on his off-time, or we’d even meet and go over concepts. Dane was smart and he did a pretty good job, it’s not like he needed me. There was one point where they changed the blocking line and the scheme and did some things differently and that kind of threw his momentum off, but he had a really good career all in all.

pC: He obviously had some pretty big shoes to fill in yours but he did pretty well.
CH: He did. I remember his junior year he missed one field goal all year and he was 3rd team All-American so he did really well.

pC: What do you think about the last couple of years of Hurricane football?
CH: I don’t know if it’s on the right track or going back up. I don’t know enough, but it definitely is much, much better. For the first season in a long time as a fan now and watching, it was exciting to watch them play and you had hope that when they needed to score, Jacory Harris could get it done. I mean they’re explosive, they’re a little young and maybe made a few mistakes that next year they won’t make, but it was exciting to watch them and you had hope. In prior years I don’t know what happened with the offense. It was just so stagnant. I think that the reason they may have dropped off a bit was I kind of felt they had such amazing success with Butch and Larry Coker and then that game against Ohio State, which I still think they got hosed on the call, but they were a great, great team. I think they just kind of rested on their laurels a little bit and stopped working, stopped looking to be that great team. I think they thought ‘hey we’re so good now, we just are on automatic pilot’ and I think that caught up with them.

Word Asssociations: give me the first thing that pops in your head when you read the following:
Jimmy Johnson: Flawless
Larry Coker: I didn’t know him that well. Classy
Orange Bowl: Mythical
Dennis Erickson: High Scoring
The Ibis: John Routh? John Routh was the best mascot I’ve ever seen. Yeah he was the best
Art Kehoe: Hilarious
The Fiesta Bowl: Motivating
Ohio State: Over achievers
The Sugar Bowl: Which one? We were national champs but people don’t think about that for some reason, everyone thinks of the George Teague one. But I don’t think of that one, I think of the one we won. I want to say trailblazing and the reason I say that, I mean Erickson came in his first year and we won a National Championship, who does that?
Dolphin Stadium, or Landshark Stadium:Jimmy Buffet

pC: Have you been to a game there yet?
CH: No, no I didn’t go all season.

pC: What do you think about that, what do you think about the move from the Orange Bowl?
CH: Financially I’m sure it’s the right decision, but it will never be the same. You can’t create what was at the Orange Bowl. So ultimately, I don’t think that we will have the same success because going to play at that Orange Bowl for opposing teams was awful. We just had such a huge, huge advantage I thought.

pC: Your Favorite NFL team?
CH: I don’t really have one. I mean I follow the NFL, I don’t root for anybody. I’m fascinated with the successful programs. I know the Steelers weren’t great this year but I like that [Chuck] Noll, [Bill] Cowher, [Mike] Tomlin, how the franchise stands behind them, supports them and each of them has won a Super Bowl. There’s something in those organizations and obviously the Patriots are up there every year, you’re not going to win every year, but I’m fascinated by that.

pC: The NBA? Any particular affinity toward that league?
CH: Although I think LeBron James is almost at or will be almost at a Michael Jordan level, the most exciting thing about the NBA to me is Dwayne Wade.

pC: Favorite food?
CH: Ice cream, that’s easy.

pC: What band or group or music would we be most likely to find on your Ipod?
CH: The Beatles

pC: What movie could you watch over and over?
CH: Stripes.

pC: TV show you can’t miss?
CH: It was Seinfeld.

pC: What do you do in your spare time?
CH: Work.

pC: Two websites you have to check daily?
CH: Daily? I don’t have that.

pC: I think we’ve covered everything. Thank you for this.
CH: My pleasure, I like reliving the old days.

We at would like to thank Carlos Huerta for being so gracious with his time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa, John Routh, Chad Wilson, Mike Rumph and more! Click here to read Part I of our EXCLUSIVE interview with Carlos Huerta.

We would like to thank JC Ridley of and for providing us with Carlos Huerta's Chicago Bears photos.

Click here to order Carlos Huerta's proCane Rookie Card.

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Tracking proCanes - Carlos Huerta - Part I is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former University of Miami, Chicago Bear, Las Vegas Posse and AFL kicker Carlos Huerta. Huerta, the starting kicker on Miami's 1991 National Championship team, emerged as a walk-on and became a consensus All-American and First-Team All-BIG EAST selection. Huerta, who later played with the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears, established an NCAA record with his 157 consecutive point after attempts (PATs) during his career as a four-year starter (1988-91). He ranks second on the NCAAs all-time scoring list with 397 career points, including 73 field goals. Additionally, Huerta still holds Miami records for career PATs, career field goals, career points, the top three records for consecutive PATs in a season, the top four records for field goals in a season, the top three records for points scored kicking in a season and field goals in a game. During his four years as a starter Huerta led the team in scoring each season. His foot was a significant reason in historic victories, such as hitting a field goal with 43 seconds remaining to give UM the 31-30 edge over the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1988. Huerta also hit game-winning field goals over Arkansas in 1988 and Michigan State in 1989.

After playing his college football at the University of Miami, Huerta joined the Las Vegas Posse, a Canadian Football League expansion franchise. He was one of the lone bright lights, kicking 38 of 46 field goal attempts and scoring 154 points, and winning the Jackie Parker Trophy, which was good for runner up for the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award. After Las Vegas folded he moved to the Baltimore Stallions, where he hit 57 of 72 field goals and scored 228 points, and was part of their 1995 Grey Cup championship season.

The National Football League followed in 1996 and 1997. Huerta played 3 games with the Chicago Bears in 96, hitting 4 of 7 field goals, and one game with the St. Louis Rams in 1997, scoring 2 converts.

From 1998 to 2001 he played in the Arena Football League, with the Florida Bobcats in 1998 and the remainder with the San Jose SaberCats. He would connect on 37 of 85 field goals in the AFL. Also in 1998, Huerta appeared in a playoff game with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Let’s first give an idea to fans as to what you are doing in Las Vegas.
Carlos Huerta: I have a real estate and development investment company. I’m also a licensed real estate broker, but I don’t really broker real estate for commissions more so for trading them and buying them for portfolio or investment for future sale or income. Most of my investors are from Israel and I do have investors in the US as well. I’ve been living in Vegas since 1994 and have had my real estate company for a little over 14 years.

pC: How did you get into real estate?
CH: I always wanted to get into real estate since I was in college or before and when I was in the MBA program at the University of Miami, I was still playing football, but I was kind of looking at a future career and I knew that the west was where the growth was and knew that they needed finance people. I have a finance background so I kind of went out there with a mission to get into that.

pC: So you grew up in Coral Gables?
CH: No, I wish. Coral Gables is one of my favorite places in the world. I love it here. I was born in South Miami hospital, but before I turned one [years old] my father started a business in central Florida so we moved to Orlando and lived there for 11 years and then we moved back after he got a job offer here. I went to junior high, high school and college here so I mean I partly grew up here, obviously throughout my five years at UM and one year we lived in Coral Gables before I went to UM. I went to Christopher Columbus high school and Belen before that. So 7th, 8th and 9th grades, I went to Belen and then Columbus after that.

pC: So were you always a Miami Hurricane fan growing up?
CH: I became a huge Hurricane fan when we moved back and that was the Jim Kelly era. I started getting into that and then when Kosar came in, I was an off the chart Hurricanes fan and would go to the Orange Bowl for games. I liked to sit in the student section and do that whole thing. I would sneak down there when I was in high school, it was just off the charts. Prior to that when we lived in central Florida, believe it or not, I was kind of a Seminole fan because we had the Bobby Bowden show and they were pretty good and I didn’t really know about the Hurricanes actually. I was a Dolphin fan always and then an FSU fan but when we moved here for junior high I started becoming a huge Hurricane fan. So, when I was in high school I played some football as a kicker, I really didn’t play any other position. I was playing soccer and I actually thought I was going to go and be a soccer player in college and I had some scholarship offers but none in football and my soccer coach, who I respected a lot and kind of looked out for me, suggested I try to go play football in college. He was kind of saying; ‘hey you’re not good enough in soccer.’ [Laughter] Actually I got hurt a lot, I just kept getting my ankles hurt, so I kind of took his advice and I considered a bunch of different schools. I was kind of a recruited walk-on from a bunch of different schools; Oklahoma State, Tulane, Colgate. I just said, if I’m going to play and I’m going to make the sacrifice and have to pay for school and be a walk-on, I might as well go for the gusto. If I play, I only want to play for UM which ended being the best decision I ever made. But it was a naive and dumb decision. Dumb. Dumb. I was naïve and young because I really was very, very fortunate that I even ever had a shot to play here.

pC: How did that happen?
CH: I was a walk-on. I was on the scout team. I used to have to run plays and call plays and I felt like a slave my first year. I would get beat up on by the lineman in drills and they outweighed me by over 100 lbs. It was crazy and I never dealt with that before so that first year I was a redshirt. Our kicker in Miami was a second team All-American. Greg Cox. He had a phenomenal season and no one was going to beat him out and it was not even a consideration. So, it was kind of like pay your dues, hang out, and maybe next year you’ll get a shot. I did that kind of reluctantly, I wanted to quit like three times. I think one time I was so pissed I didn’t come to practice.

pC: Were you the scout team quarterback?
CH: No they just used bodies for drills. They make you run plays against their…

pC: First team defense [Laughter]
CH: Yeah and I used to have to hold up chains for the first down marker. When Gary Stevens was doing his offensive play calling and scrimmaging during the practices they would want someone to speak into the microphone and record what the play was on microphone before the play so that when they’re watching video someone would be saying this is whatever play. I used to have to do that every drill and Gary Stevens was a hard ass, so he wanted you to do it into the mic and he wanted all the players who were not in the play to know what the play was so they could track it. So, he’d want you to go up and tell them what the play was, but they’re standing the width of the field, 63 yards, and you’re having to go tell them all but then if you said it too loud he’d yell at you because he didn’t want the defense to hear what it was so that they could stump the play. So, sometimes you’d kind of be in a hurry and you’d have to go say it and you’d say it too loud and he’d curse at you ‘don’t say it so loud!’ There would be times when I was just so mad from being told what to do. I had a huge chip on my shoulder and I just wanted to go out there and kick but I couldn’t, so I had to deal with that. The only times I could actually practice kicking was when everybody went inside then they’d give me the balls so I could kick and practice.

pC: So you didn’t practice the whole season?
CH: The whole season, never. Ever, I mean a little bit during two-a-days because they would give everybody a try but no one is really paying attention unless you’re the starting kicker.

pC: So that was the first year?
CH: That was my redshirt season which was 1987 and they were National Champs and undefeated. So it was a phenomenal team and season. After that season there were three kickers on scholarship. One of them which came from Ft. Lauderdale Eli high school, Sum Kim was his name, and he was the scholarship guy and the heir apparent to Greg Cox. He was very talented and had a strong leg and everything and really wanted to play football and was really into it. He had received a scholarship by Miami after he had hurt his knee playing soccer and had a reconstructive knee surgery. He was still really good in high school went to the surgery and passed all the tests and they said his knee had fully recovered. The first season during our redshirt season he was fine and kicking well but something happened toward the end of that year where his knee started to get really aggravated again so come spring ball, I don’t even think he was able to kick or he was half of what he was, so now they were kind of looking. There was still another scholarship kicker they had brought in and they had a returning kicker who was earning a scholarship who was the kickoff specialist who was a really good kicker as well. So, when Kim kind of started hurting, they kind of started giving me a shot to compete with the other guy and it ended up that I ended up battling it out with the kick off specialist and it was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life.

pC: Who was that?
CH: Edgar Benes. He had an extremely strong leg. He could kick the ball a lot further than I could especially on kickoffs, but I worked real hard, I was very intense and I kind of convinced Coach Johnson one day to give me a chance because I felt they would kind of look at me, but not really give me a chance. You know I was undersized, Cuban, not on scholarship, they don’t want to give up a scholarship kid for a walk-on, it doesn’t make business sense and then they didn’t want to have to give me a scholarship on top of that. I kind of convinced him to give me a shot. I got in his face one day and nobody really did that, and I think he was kind of impressed by that and so he nodded kind of with this nervous chuckling nod and said ‘okay I’ll put you in’ because I think he kind of thought he would call me on my bluff. He put me in during a scrimmage and I did really well in the scrimmage and everybody kind of got excited and from that day forward I wasn’t the favorite or anything in spring ball, but now they started giving me looks. Come two-a-day practices before the season they needed to find a kicker, our opening game was against number one ranked Florida State. We started competing for the job and it became very clear then that Kim could not even kick. I don’t even think he could even make it out to the field; his knee was pretty much done, so I ended competing against Edgar. I ended up getting in really, really, really good shape that off-season and the competition was so intense that it was almost a war of attrition. Whoever’s leg gave out on him first lost and I got with the training staff to help me a lot and I just was able to last longer than he was.

Everybody kind of laughs at kickers and I know all the jokes, but you really can compare it to a professional pitcher or a college pitcher that can only pitch a certain amount of pitches. Well they don’t have that concept for kickers even though it’s the same thing because your hip joint takes all the abuse and it’s only got a certain amount of tendons and ligaments that can handle it. Edgar was really competitive so his leg just tired out on him and mine was kind of like rubber at that point, and I could just keep going. I really credit Jimmy Johnson, though. I think I owe him my career. He taught me how to really focus, which was crucial for what I did later on as the field goal kicker because I was a four-year starter. He was so determined to have the best guy out on the field where he was willing to even give the walk-on the job, reluctantly, but he was willing to do it. Other coaches wouldn’t even look at you, so I really respect him for that and I kind of owe him my career

pC: So, you did kickoffs and field goals or did they keep Edgar on as the kick off specialist that first year?
CH: As a redshirt freshman I only did field goals and extra points and Edgar still did the kickoffs. He did very well. He went on to law school and then the next year I did everything.

pC: Is that a lot more difficult? In those days we were scoring a lot more points so it adds a lot and tires your leg out more doesn’t it?
CH: Yes it taxed me. I’m not that big and strong to begin with so I had to really use all the power or strength I could muster to kind of be adequate, so it’s tough and then it’s a bit different because field goals you’re really kicking for accuracy. I know it’s still kicking but it really is kind of a different motion unless you’re so strong. You know, NFL kickers today are 6 feet 6’2 [tall], one guy is 6’5. They’re extremely powerful but unless you can go to the ball like those guys can, where they just go into it easy and can make a 50 yard field goal without blinking, it s not that easy to do . It’s harder than it looks.

pC: You look at a guy like Matt Bosher, currently UM’s kicker, who does everything. That’s got to be really hard especially because punting is totally different, right?
CH: Oh, way different. And one negatively affects the other. Punting actually hurts your kicking. The motion is so different and it’s kind of muscle memory and its still similar enough where I think there are times when you actually go to kick and your muscle takes over and you do a punt and you could absolutely blow your kick. It takes a whole lot of dedication, concentration, focus and talent to be able to go out there and effectively do all three of those things. He’s a very strong kid, he’s very talented and yeah it requires a unique guy to be able to do all that and at the same time you’ve got to avoid injury because one little pull of a muscle, you lose everything. I mean if it’s the wrong muscle you can’t do anything.

pC: So the kicker situation had to be pretty bad for them since it’s so difficult for a kicker to do all three.
CH: Either that or he’s that good. I mean the guy was the MVP of the team last year.

pC: You think he could make it in the pros?
CH: Yes, I think he’s prototype. One of the things that the pro scouts used to say about me is that I was too small. You wouldn’t think that’s an issue but it is for them. He definitely has the size and the strength and now the resume. You know he’s not an NFL kicker yet but he’s got the right resume to get those kinds of looks. I actually am banking on him being a pro.

pC: Have you talked to him?
CH: Minimally. If I see him I do. Every once in a while I’ll email him. I haven’t this season actually, but he doesn’t need much help, I don’t think. Yeah I might mess him up, so I stay away from him.

pC: Are you superstitious or were you superstitious because a lot of times they say how superstitious kickers are? Did you have a certain ritual a cross?
CH: No, not a cross guy. No, I’m Cuban and a catholic, but no. Well first of all I learned later on after my UM career, that rituals are actually a very good thing and they’re recommended by the top sports psychologists. So, ritual is one thing, it’s different from superstition. As a freshman and sophomore I would say I was ritualistic and superstitious as much as anybody. Like I didn’t want to step on white lines or I had all kinds of crazy things. I also felt balancing was important, so if I did something with my left hand, I had to do it with my right hand or my energy would be thrown and then I started to realize or somebody pointed out how I was and I thought this is really ridiculous, I’ve got to get over this stuff! My last couple of years, I was obviously having success on the field, so I had a little bit more confidence and I started to make a point that I was going to rid myself [of the superstitions]. I made a point to try and get rid of every single superstition I had and it was kind of tough, but in a way I kind of enjoyed it and took it up as a personal challenge. I said I’m going to stay in good shape, I’m going to kick well and I’m not going to be superstitious anymore. So I rid myself of those and it was kind of fun actually.

pC: And you started rituals instead?
CH: No, not really but I mean I think athletes and especially lets say a kicker or quarterback that has to do the same motion again and again they actually recommend that you get in the same habits so it becomes the same to you and you take every situation [the same] and keep it as close to the same as they can. Obviously if it’s very windy or if it’s very cold outside you’re going to have to make an adjustment or if the field is slippery you might have to wear different shoes to get traction, so you can’t be in a bubble, but you want to keep it the same as much as possible. You want to warm up in the same way as you usually do so your body is used to it, so it’s all familiar. Familiarity is good, having been there before in your mind increases your confidence which normally increases your peak performance so all those things are considered very prudent things. So, I started getting into those things and then I got into sports psychology, not for a career, but learning about it and I read some books and one specific book made a huge impact on my performance. I didn’t read it till after I left college but it took me to a whole other level kicking wise when I was playing in the pros and it was amazing.

pC: In what way? How did it take you to another level? Not physically right?
CH: Even physically. Both. The book was written by a PhD but he was also a pro tennis player before that. The book’s concept is for an athlete to reach peak performance. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine. I didn’t even know about it and then I’ve since recommended it to other people. It breaks away the accepted schools of thought on a lot of things you take for granted growing up; that all coaches are correct, a lot of them are really crazy and it validated a lot of the right things to do and what to focus on.

One really interesting concept to me is the ability to be graceful under pressure or to be clutch as people call it. Well, my high school coach started calling me the ‘Ice Man’ because I did well under pressure but then that kind of became something that I kind of believed myself and other people started to know and started taking that for granted saying ‘the guy is good under pressure’ and so I said “okay I’m good under pressure” and started thinking that and normally I was. Well, the thing that a lot of people will say is you’re born with that and I also believe that. So, I was experiencing success and I accepted this school of thought, but I started learning in this book that that’s the furthest thing from the truth. You actually learn how to be good under pressure. And it turns out that I had experiences in my athletic career that taught me how to deal with it and how to channel it properly, it wasn’t that I was born with it. So, that was I guess one of my talents that I did perform well in really important situations not that I was such a talented athlete or an amazingly strong leg kicker but that was one of my attributes. I always had a strong leg, relatively speaking, so I took free kicks all the time in soccer when the game was on the line and I started learning how to do that and my high school coach was also really good and would train me in practice and put a lot of pressure on me so by the time you got to the game the game was easy compared to having some maniac yelling in your ear telling you he was going to cut you or kill you if you don’t make it.

Then I got here and Jimmy Johnson would do the same thing, the training was so intense he was screaming and yelling you need to make this kick or we’re going to lose the national championship. Every practice was intense but when I got out in the game and he was far away on the sideline; it was easy, he’s not screaming in my ear. It was something that was learned but actually learning about the fact that that’s actually something learned and then being able to take steps to practice it and be okay with it. So that took me to a whole other level performance wise but then the book also focused on that you can be the most cool cat in the world but if your fundamentals stink you’re going to stink, so I really started focusing more on my fundamentals and on my physical well being. I started learning that when my body fat was down and I was doing well in the weight room and I was doing my sprints [I would perform better]. My body was really toned and the ball really flew of my leg. I got to the CFL, well I first was cut a couple of times in the NFL and then I got to the CFL and especially on away games where we would go to opposing teams’ stadiums to practice, usually we’d practice after their walk through and the other team started stopping in shock to watch me kick in warm ups because I’d be kicking 60 and 65 yard field goals down the middle and here I am this 5’8 skinny guy, well I was a little muscular but overall I’m not a very big guy, and it was kind of a freak thing to watch. So I just really learned a lot and that book kind of did it applying the concepts and focusing on things that were only going to make me better at what I did. So I’m all into that.

pC: You were a clutch kicker, as they call it, so when you got into those situations, coaches would call a time out try and ice you, does that actually work?
CH: Let me ask you a question. If you’re in a physics class and your very advanced physics professor says look I need you to really analyze the theory of relativity and prove Einstein is wrong, would you rather have a day to do that or would you rather have 40 days?

pC: I’d take 40.
CH: If you’re going to make a game winning field goal against Notre Dame and it’s from a pretty good distance, would you rather have time to properly center yourself, take the right steps, make sure you’re aligned properly, make sure that your center is comfortable, and not off balance so he can center the ball back appropriately, that you’re holder is ready to take the ball? You always want more time.

That icing the kicker thing is the dumbest thing ever. But there aren’t any kickers who are head coaches and most of the coaches believe this false fallacy and they continue to do it and I just roll my eyes. If you’re a kicker that’s worth anything you want to be out there and be able to set up, make sure you’re understanding the wind, check you’re plant foot and make sure the grass isn’t going to give out from under you and other things. It’s just asinine.

pC: At least someone puts that to rest.
CH: Nobody will listen.

pC: I guess if you’re a current kicker you’d never admit to it because you want the opposing team to keep using timeouts.
CH: I hated to be rushed because then, it isn’t like you’re practice. You want to do it like the practice.

pC: What was the longest field goal you’ve ever made?
CH: In Canada I made a 59 yarder, in college a 54 yarder. In the NFL I think was like a 46 yarder or something. I didn’t play long in the NFL though.

pC: You were with the Bears and your stay with them ended in controversy. Talk about that.
CH: First of all Dave Wanstedt didn’t really know what he was doing when it came to special teams and he kind of screwed a lot of things up, but that’s a long story. The other controversy, I mean I was a good kicker I should have lasted longer than I did, but the other controversy was that the Bears in 1985 they won their Super Bowl. They are still legendary in that town and I took the place of Kevin Butler who was the last remaining Chicago Bear from the ‘85 Super Bowl and everybody loved ‘butthead.’ I took his job and they hated me because of it, even my teammates.

pC: So that must have made it pretty miserable for you.
CH: Yeah I hated going to work everyday.

pC: Obviously your performance isn’t going to be very good on game day either, or as good as it could be let’s say.
CH: At that point it was Adam Vinatieri’s first year. We all know what he became. I used to train with Vinatieri. He has a much stronger leg than I do, but at that time there was no comparison on who was more accurate. When we went on the field he might have the stronger leg but I would blow him away kick after kick. He was I think 2 for 7 and had missed 3 extra points and they didn’t cut him. I think I had missed 3 field goals no extra points, two of the field goals I’d made I shouldn’t have even kicked because the snap was so bad I had to stop mid stride on a 44-yard field goal I remember. Wanstedt had won the first game against the Cowboys and I kicked two field goals in the 4th quarter to kind of ice the game. It was Monday night football and they were Super Bowl champs. But then we lose two games and Wanstedt was the type of guy that when he was feeling the heat, he always found a scapegoat and I was the scapegoat for the week. Sometimes it was his quarterback and that’s what he was. But whatever, you don’t have much of a chance to make it, that was my chance. I then I played for the Rams and then never played again.

pC: Did you want to keep playing? Was it tough to stop?
CH: I wanted to keep playing. I went to the World League after that and went to the training camp with the Buffalo Bills and had a great training camp. But Steve Cristie was like an all-pro kicker, I didn’t make it. In my career I went up against John Carney, who still was kicking until this season till he was 45 years old, made it to the Pro Bowl a lot of times. I went up against Al Del Greco who when I was up against him, was probably kicking better than he ever has. Butler and then Steve Cristie and in the NFL there’s no back up kicker, you’re either a starter or you’re gone. So all these guys were really, really, great kickers and I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time and I’m not so talented where I can just show up and make the coaches say ‘wow I want this guy.’ I was just a guy that performed really steadily all the time. I think to this day I’m still the most accurate kicker in the history of the Canadian Football League. I did get hurt too.

pC: What did you injure?
CH: I injured my kicking leg and I didn’t quite come back until it was kind of too late. I wanted to keep playing but I got into a situation where I felt that I was in the best possible situation in college that anybody could actually dream of being in. It was my hometown, my favorite team, we were champs every other year and I was kind of a star player towards the end. I knew what success was. To go to some of these pro franchises and win three, four, five games and be under coaches who were not a Jimmy Johnson, not a Dennis Erickson and then the Canadian League, where we were Grey Cup Champions. They were so amazing to work under and I’d go to guys that weren’t that and think I don’t want to be here. I was spoiled. I’m not going to get to really perform like I should under theses guys, so I was kind of starting to try and look for the right situation where I could be under a coach that I felt was worth playing for but I wasn’t good enough to necessarily always get that opportunity. But it’s tough to take a step back like that.

We would like to thank JC Ridley of and for providing us with Carlos Huerta's Chicago Bears photos.

Click here to read Part II of our exclusive interview with Carlos Huerta to read what Huerta has to say about Coach Johnson and Coach Erickson, how he got the number 27, where he thought the toughest place to play was, what he thinks of the current state of Hurricane football and much more!

Click here to order Carlos Huerta's proCane Rookie Card.

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