COLUMBIA - Elliott Fry carried the weight of his entire team last season, typical pressure for any kicker.
Each field goal could be the difference between winning and losing. It's enough for any player to break into cold sweats.
For Fry, there was more to worry about than booting the football through goal posts.
Fry arrived at South Carolina less than a year ago. He was a walk-on from Frisco, Texas, a fast-growing Dallas suburb. In a big city, his school offered a small-town feel. Fewer than 1,000 students walked the halls at Prince of Peace Christian.
Friday nights were a far stretch from the atmosphere inside 80,000-seat Williams-Brice Stadium. Fry thought about the massive SEC crowds he'd face on Saturdays, and there was more reason for cold sweats.
"Yeah, I was a little worried about that," Fry admits now.
If the Gamecocks' freshman kicker was intimidated last fall, it never showed. Fry was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team following the season, an unlikely rise for the first freshman kicker to start for South Carolina since 1996.
Now, he's hoping for more success - and an even bigger role - as a sophomore.
"I think I'm improving pretty steadily," said Fry, who made all three of his field goals Saturday during the Gamecocks' scrimmage, including two from 38 yards. "I guess, just working on consistency and staying consistent. . I still missed kicks last year. You can always improve there."
Fry missed kicks last season, but not many. He made 15 of 18 attempts (83.3 percent) to rank fifth in the SEC. His 15 field goals tied for fourth-most in the league.
More importantly, Fry was nearly automatic in pressure moments. Fry made 4 of 5 field goals in a five-point win against Florida, including a career long from 45 yards. Three weeks earlier, he kicked the game-winning field goal in double overtime at Missouri.
Fry impressed South Carolina coaches enough to be put on scholarship this semester. As last season progressed, Fry said he had several conversations with special teams coordinator Joe Robinson about receiving a scholarship. The paperwork came through over Winter Break.
"I feel almost relieved, actually," Fry said. "It's awesome, obviously. Love it. Parents are happy about it, too."
Fry hopes to have more opportunities to kick this fall. He's competing to be South Carolina's kickoff specialist, a job currently held by senior Landon Ard. Either way, he'll retain field goal duties.
Even with South Carolina's 2014 opener more than four months away, it's impossible for Fry not to look ahead. The Gamecocks will host Texas A&M on Aug. 28. Like many inside his home state, Fry grew up rooting for the Texas Longhorns.
Fry would like nothing more than to kick his next game-winning field goal against the rival Aggies.
"I have a lot of family that goes to A&M, a lot of friends go to A&M," Fry said. "I know I've got a lot of people coming down for that game, so that will be really fun. I grew up liking Texas, so I always hated the Aggies. That'll be cool to play them."
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