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UNLV’s Daniel Gutierrez gets kick out of earning scholarship

UNLV senior kicker Daniel Gutierrez arrived at Allegiant Stadium one August afternoon expecting to kick a couple of field goals during the Rebels’ intrasquad scrimmage.

Not expecting to be awarded a scholarship by coach Marcus Arroyo.

“That was the craziest feeling in the entire world,” Gutierrez said Wednesday after practice. “Kicking is just different. To me, it’s 90 percent mentality and 10 percent kick. Coach Arroyo does a great job boosting my confidence.”

The scholarship is still surreal for Gutierrez, who has lent the Rebels a steady leg this season amid the turnover at quarterback as the offense continues to find its way. Through four games, the Los Angeles native has converted all seven of his field-goal attempts, including a 51-yarder against Eastern Washington in the opener.

UNLV continues its season Saturday at 3 p.m. against Texas San-Antonio, giving Gutierrez another opportunity to silence an opposing crowd.

“Daniel is consistent. He comes out every day to work. He works his tail off,” Arroyo said. “We try to put him in some pressure situations out here. I try to get in his head. I try to rattle him. I try to challenge him. … Just because he’s a specialist doesn’t make him any different than the quarterback” in that regard, Arroyo said.

“He’s done a heck of a job, and he’ll continue to be a weapon for us.”

Gutierrez is a soccer play by trade who didn’t begin kicking footballs until middle school. He attended the same middle school as UNLV tight end Noah Bean and credits Bean with convincing him to dabble on the gridiron.

Bean would play pickup football games during lunch with his friends and recruit Gutierrez to be the kicker and punter.

“I’m eating my food. I would go out there and kick. Then I would go back to eating,” Gutierrez said. “Kicking a ball in general, any type of ball, is fun for me.”

With that in mind, Gutierrez played football and soccer in high school. He had football games on Friday nights and soccer games on Saturday mornings.

But his future would be in football.

He booted a 54-yard field goal during his junior season and began drawing interest from programs such as Boise State, Missouri and even Alabama. But UNLV was close to home, and he pledged to play for the Rebels as a walk-on during the summer of 2017.

“They gave me an opportunity,” he said.

Albeit not right away.

Gutierrez played sparingly during his first and second seasons, attempting 11 extra points and six field goals as the backup to Evan Pantels. He earned the kicking job in 2019 and explained that he learned “not everything is just given to you” through the trials of his first real competitive kicking situation.

He made 11 of 14 field goals that season to go with 35 of 36 extra points. He followed during the truncated 2020 season by making 5 of 6 field goals and 11 of 12 extra points.

He hopes to remain perfect this season and cherishes the platform — and scholarship — he’s been given.

“The pressure. The fans. Especially the away games, they’re always chirping at you when you’re warming up, and they’re really loud when you kick,” Gutierrez said. “But once you make that kick, you don’t hear anybody. That’s always fun.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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