COLUMBIA - South Carolina special teams coach Joe Robinson is a little more relaxed this preseason than he was a season ago.
A year ago, Robinson was entering his second season on campus and was once again handling the task of searching for a new placekicker for the Gamecocks. Jay Wooten and Adam Yates each started as seniors before departing the program, so Robinson was back at ground zero.
Enter walk-on Elliott Fry. The Texas native was small in stature but came up big at crucial times. The biggest kick of the season might have been his 40-yarder in double overtime that knocked off a Top 5 Missouri team. He repeatedly made big kick after big kick all season and by the time it was all said and done, Fry had earned Freshman All-SEC recognition.
It was that calm demeanor that Fry displayed in that game-winning kick against Missouri that made Robinson go with the 6-foot, 165-pounder who had one scholarship offer after his senior season of high school.
"Nobody could have handled it better," Robinson marveled. "He is a very cool character. He enjoys being a part of this and he relishes every minute of it. He doesn't let it go to his head. He realizes at his position it can go bad quickly, so the harder you work on your consistently, you keep yourself in a better frame of mind for a lot longer."
Fry connected on 15 of 18 field goal attempts and 54 of 55 of his extra point tries in amassing 99 points - the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
That performance earned Fry a scholarship for 2014 and what he hopes will be more big kicks in his future.
"My biggest concern has been staying consistent. I was 15 of 18 last year so I want to have a higher percentage and help the team any way that I can," Fry said. "Getting put on scholarship was a blessing. It wasn't something I really expected but am glad it happened."
Fry has improved his leg strength in the offseason and added about 10-12 pounds of muscle. His longest field goal last year was 45 yards but he feels comfortable with anything less than 50 yards now. He said he can hit from 58 or 59 yards in practice but that would probably be stretching his limit in a game situation.
"I have a little more leg strength and I think that will help me," Fry said. "With kicking, you always want to stay consistent but find a way to improve your range. I feel really good about how things went this off-season. I know I'm stronger than I was last year at this time. I just need to stay accurate."
Robinson was pleased as well.
"He's like any other specialist, he's always working on his consistency," Robinson said. "He's a hard worker. I'm proud of his work ethic and his attitude and what he has brought to our football team. He's talked about some things he can do better from a consistency standpoint. Until the day he leaves here, he'll never quit working on being the best he can be."
Fry has a subtle reminder that his position on the football team is a little bit different than most. Just on the inside of his left forearm, he has a tattoo with two words: 'One Shot.' He understands he only gets a few opportunities each game and he wants to make the most of each one.
"It has a lot to do with kicking," Fry said of the tattoo. "I only have one shot to make a kick and that might be the difference in us winning or losing a game. I don't get a redo so I have to make the most of every opportunity. I never want to feel like I let my teammates down."