The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Former walk-on kicker Drew Stevens making the most of every situation

The second-year from South Carolina hit the 52-yard game-winning field goal in Iowa’s Week 9 matchup against Northwestern.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa kicker Drew Stevens kicks the ball during the 2023 Wildcats Classic, a football game between Iowa and Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 10-7. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Since his arrival on campus, Tory Taylor has been “the guy” for Iowa football special teams.

The 26-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, has over 69,000 fans at Kinnick screaming his name every time he booms a punt, and even started a movement with the “Punting is Winning” T-shirts you can spot at every tailgate in Iowa City.

However, after nailing a 53-yard field to give the Hawkeyes the lead over Northwestern with 14 seconds remaining — his second game-winner in two seasons — placekicker Drew Stevens might be making a case for that title himself.

“As soon as I kicked it, I started celebrating … I was prepared,” Stevens said following the win over the Wildcats. “Shoutout for my coaches for believing in me.”

With the score all tied up, Iowa’s offense drove down the recently constructed turf at Wrigley Field with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to put Stevens in field-goal range. All eyes were on the second-year kicker warming up on the sideline as he missed a 53-yarder earlier in the game.

Stevens said if he was asked two years ago to hit the game-winner after missing a field goal earlier in the contest, he wouldn’t be able to do it.

“It’s like one or two minutes [of thinking] that sucks, but your team needs you in close games like that, so it wasn’t that difficult to shake off,” he said.

According to head coach Kirk Ferentz, no one on the roster has grown nearly as much in the previous two seasons as No. 18.

“Nobody had a worse spring camp than [Drew] when he first got here,” Ferentz said at an Oct. 31 press conference. “He left high school early and was God-awful out there. Little did I know that three, four years later, this is what it would look like. He’s done a great job.”

Growing up in North Augusta, South Carolina, with parents from Iowa, Stevens was no stranger to rooting for the Hawkeyes when they played on Saturdays. However, he had no aspirations of ever playing himself.

“Soccer was my favorite sport,” Stevens said at an Oct. 25 media availability.

Stevens grew up excelling at soccer and only gave football a chance as a 14-year-old after his high school team needed a kicker.

“The freshman coach asked me to come do it, and then I ended up liking it more than soccer,” he said.

Stevens went on to become a three-year letterman on a North Augusta football team that made it to the state playoffs in three consecutive seasons. He earned first-team all-state honors his fourth high school year, receiving attention from Division I schools such as North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, and Coastal Carolina.

Stevens decided to walk on at Iowa for a multitude of reasons including the amount of playing time he would receive, familiarity with the area and a connection he made with fellow Carolinian and former Iowa kicker Keith Duncan.

“I went to my kicking coach, and it was a small session, and Keith Duncan was there. So, I met him, and he put in the good word with coach [LeVar] Woods, and that’s how I got on their radar,” Stevens said.

Ferentz wasn’t so confident he found another clutch placekicker like Duncan when he first learned of Stevens’ story.

“Let me get this straight: He’s from South Carolina [and] going to come to Iowa as a walk-on. Why would that make sense? He looked like he was 12 at the time,” the head coach said jokingly.

Even with some struggles early on, Stevens never let the low points get to him and eventually earned the chance to start in Week 3 of his first collegiate year. He was behind Aaron Blom, who went one-for-three on field goals in Iowa’s first two games last season.

“If I’m called upon, I’m not going to shy away from an opportunity,” Stevens said.

Stevens never let go of the starting spot and set the Iowa first-year record, going 16-for-18 on field goal attempts and a perfect 24-for-24 on extra-point attempts. He was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best placekicker.

So far this season, Stevens has made 14 of his 18 field goal attempts while being perfect on all 16 extra-point attempts. His 18 attempts rank eighth in the Big Ten. Even Taylor is looking to give up some of his reps if it means giving Stevens the chance to kick.

​​“Because whenever it’s a shorter punt, it hurts him on the stat sheet,” Stevens said of Taylor. “He’s almost a bigger advocate to Coach Woods than I am.”

Stevens getting more opportunities to boot it 50-plus yards is uncertain, but given Iowa City’s love of special teams, if he delivers more game-winners like last weekend, it is almost guaranteed you’ll see Drew Stevens hitting the “go to sleep” pose on a RAYGUN T-shirt soon.

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About the Contributors
Cooper Worth, Pregame reporter
Cooper Worth is a Pregame Reporter for The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication. He is also earning a minor in communication studies and an entrepreneurial management certificate. This is his third year at the DI, previously serving as a News Editor and as a News Reporter covering local government in Johnson County for the DI. Cooper interned for the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa during the summer of 2023 as a general news reporter.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.