Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
James Stefanou reluctantly took a day off from kicking the football on Wednesday.
“I hate taking a day off,” he said. “But, it’s something we have to be smart about.”
The Colorado junior is healthy again and going full bore this spring as he aims to regain the form he had as a freshman in 2017.
“I’ve been kicking really well and I feel great,” he said after giving his leg a break Wednesday.
The Australian native, who turns 32 on Monday, was the oldest player in college football last year, but he’s rejuvenated this spring.
“I’m 32 this year, but I feel young, I feel great, so why not keep going?,” he said.
A former professional soccer player, Stefanou had never played in a football game before 2017, but had a stellar debut season. He made 17 of 22 field goals and all 35 extra points, was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and earned first-team freshman All-American honors by ESPN.com.
Aiming for even better in 2018, Stefanou was never fully healthy. Injured in fall camp, he was a game-time decision for the opener against Colorado State and fought through it to play.
“Last year I started 3-for-3 (on field goals) and had a couple bad ones at Nebraska (in the second game) and honestly couldn’t feel my hip at that time,” he said. “I couldn’t even feel my leg coming through.”
Stefanou played the first six games and then sat out four in a row to get healthy. He came back for the final two games and finished the year 5-for-8 on field goals and 30-for-30 on extra points.
“It was probably the last game (at California) where I felt myself again,” he said. “Where I looked at film and see I’m kicking the ball properly and not trying to kick through pain all the time. It’s hard to understand if you’re not really a kicker, but no excuses. I went out there and played, but I look forward to being healthy this year.”
So far, so good, and Stefanou believes he’s better than ever, as he works with fourth-year snapper J.T. Bale and punter/holder Alex Kinney.
“Obviously replicating 2017or even better would be great,” he said. “If I’m fully healthy and we’re going well, I don’t see what would stop me from an even better year.
“My technique is better, my form is better, my mechanics are better, my leg is stronger. I’ve been doing a lot of work with J.T. and Kinney and they’re doing great. The operation is really good.”
During a recent practice, Stefanou hit a 67-yard field goal and said, “I’m feeling confident anywhere at the moment. It’s going great.”
Going into his third year with the Buffs, Stefanou has fully embraced the college football experience.
“It’s been great,” he said. “You set out with an expectation of being the best you can be, but adversity hits, things come along that you can’t control and then you have to do your best to get back to where you were and get back on top of it.”
While personal goals motivate him, Stefanou said it’s helping the team win that’s really driving him this offseason.
“I don’t need to prove myself, I don’t feel, to anybody,” he said. “I never feel that way. I want to be there for my team, my coach and myself. You have to remember your why — why you did this in the first place — and it wasn’t to prove anything to anybody. If you let that get into your head, you’re never going to redeem anything. You just focus on the task in front you, your team, your teammates, your coaches and that’s it.”
Sophomore Colby Pursell, who started all 12 games at center last season, is out with a sprained left knee. There’s a chance he could be back in time for the spring game on April 27. … The Buffs were off on Thursday and will return to the field on Friday for a scrimmage, which is closed to the public.