College Sports

‘Sensational’ Brady Stuart gets his kicks this season for UC Davis football

UC Davis’ Brady Stuart, center, celebrates a field goal in 2012.
UC Davis’ Brady Stuart, center, celebrates a field goal in 2012. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Brady Stuart hated the idea.

His father, Mike, insisted that he give football a try entering his freshman year of high school.

Stuart grew up playing soccer in Southern California and loved the sport. For the slightly built Stuart, football had no appeal.

“I was crying,” said Stuart, who now smiles these days as a senior placekicker at UC Davis. “I just wanted to play soccer. He said, ‘You are going to give it one year.’ 

Football has worked out pretty well, so he now thanks his father for his persistence.

44 Career field goals by UC Davis senior Brady Stuart, best among active Football Championship Subdivision kickers

Stuart is the Football Championship Subdivision active career field-goal leader with 44. He’s three field goals from tying the Aggies’ career mark for three-pointers held by Eddie Loretto from 1985-88.

Entering Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona, Stuart has made all seven of his field-goal attempts (he’s 11 for 11 in point-after tries) and is one of the bright spots for the winless Aggies.

“He’s been sensational,” said UCD coach Ron Gould. “He has done a phenomenal job of working in the offseason, not just from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. It’s made him ready for any situation this season.”

Stuart still is in disbelief over how things have played out since he reluctantly put on a football helmet at West Ranch High School in Valencia.

He flubbed his audition as a placekicker and wound up as a wide receiver and cornerback on the freshman team. But when the team’s quarterback got tired of the extra kicking duties, Stuart got the job. Though he eventually became the school’s all-league kicker, Stuart figured his football career was done after his senior season.

“I thought I’d just be a college student,” Stuart said. “But my dad told me about a kicking camp in Las Vegas that was being held just before signing day. He told me I needed to give it one more shot.”

Stuart performed well enough that he got a walk-on offer from then UCD coach Bob Biggs.

After redshirting in 2011, Stuart made 15 field goals as a freshman and set the Aggies’ single-season record with 17 as a sophomore.

Honestly, I started to think about the records. I was taking it so seriously that I’d run in there and be saying to myself, ‘I’ve got to make this kick.’ And when I missed, it would really get to me.

UC Davis kicker Brady Stuart

But the 5-foot-11, 163-pound Stuart went through a slump last season and became a less-than-dependable option for the Aggies. He made 5 of 11 attempts, including 1 of 4 from 40 yards or more.

“Honestly, I started to think about the records,” Stuart said. “I was taking it so seriously that I’d run in there and be saying to myself, ‘I’ve got to make this kick.’ And when I missed, it would really get to me.”

Stuart followed a simple plan during the offseason: keep training hard, continue to bond with long snappers Grant Hilton and Justin Garza and holder Colby Wadman, relax and enjoy it.

“I graduate in December; this is the last year with the guys, so I wanted to have a good time, not take it so seriously, regardless of my performance,” Stuart said.

He set a career long of 47 yards in 2013, though this season at North Dakota he easily cleared the crossbar on a 48-yarder that was nullified by a penalty. Stuart didn’t get a shot from 53 yards; the Aggies converted for a first down.

But Gould has confidence that Stuart could hit a long game-winner.

“He’s gotten stronger and his leg has gotten stronger every season, so he’s added distance,” Gould said. “If we ever need him to kick a 50- or 55-yarder, I think he’ll knock it right through.”

Stuart knows that playing beyond college is a long shot. He keeps in touch with former Aggies punter Colton Schmidt, who helped mentor Stuart when he was an underclassman and now kicks for the Buffalo Bills. So Stuart knows there’s always a chance.

I have to admit that my father was right. He pushed football, and it’s worked out pretty well.

UC Davis kicker Brady Stuart

But he figures it’s more likely he’ll be looking for a more traditional job in a few months. He kept a foot in soccer by working the last two years for Republic FC, where he said he picked up invaluable skills.

“I worked with corporate sponsorships, game setups and did some sports photography,” Stuart said. “It was so cool to start off with them and watch them kill it by winning the championship in their first year.”

Stuart said none of his siblings played college sports – his father was a swimmer at UC Santa Barbara. When he earned an athletic scholarship after his freshman season, it was much welcomed in the Stuart household.

“I know it really helped Dad and Mom, getting that scholarship, being the last of six children to all go through college,” Stuart said. “What’s neat is on game day my parents have seats right by coach Biggs. I’m always thankful for what coach Biggs did, and I have to admit that my father was right. He pushed football, and it’s worked out pretty well.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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