Position, years at Arizona: Kicker, 1991-94
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Won the 1994 Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker and was a consensus All-American. … Holds school season record with 23 field goals in 1994.
Why he made our list: When the Wildcats gathered for mug shots during preseason media day in 1993, offensive guard Warner Smith approached Steve McLaughlin and said, “Civilian pictures are taken tomorrow. Football players are today.” The “real” football players often like to make fun of kickers, but they all love the little guys when they are putting the ball through the uprights, which McLaughlin did with great accuracy and from plenty of distance after some early-career struggles.
Potential game-winning field goals at Oregon State (44 yards) and top-ranked Miami (51 yards) in 1992 slid outside the uprights when McLaughlin was a sophomore before he refined his technique and mastered the mental game, becoming a staple of the Desert Swarm-era teams.
McLaughlin, a Tucson Sahuaro High alum, did get a game-winner — a 27-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Wildcats to a 27-24 victory over Stanford in 1993 — and coach Dick Tomey didn’t hesitate to call his number for any attempt of 50 yards or more. McLaughlin’s career long was 54 yards, and he was 22 of 27 from 40-plus yards in his final two seasons.
McLaughlin converted 23 of 29 attempts as a senior, when he made seven field-goal attempts from at least 47 yards. In his final regular-season game he made a key 48-yard field-goal attempt just before halftime in Arizona’s 28-27 victory over Arizona State, which saw its kicker, Jon Baker, miss from 47 yards in the final minute.
Life after college: The Rams selected McLaughlin with the 18th pick in the third round of the 1995 draft — an abnormally high selection for a kicker — and signed him to a four-year deal for $1.1 million. He was the only kicker drafted that year, but his star soon faded and he didn’t make it to the end of his first season. Coach Rich Brooks cut McLaughlin after the rookie missed half of his 16 attempts.
McLaughlin went to NFL camps in each of the next two years but couldn’t break back into that exclusive kicking club. He moved on to spend eight seasons in the Arena Football League, bowing out with the Arizona Rattlers in 2005.
McLaughlin, who fronted a college band called Pet the Fish with friend and UA linebacker Joe Lohmeier, has continued to be serious about music, releasing a 2009 album entitled “No More Record Stores.” You can find that on Amazon.com and iTunes, etc., but good luck tracking down the 1997 CD “Btaak!” from Pet the Fish.
In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.
No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley
No. 49 — Hubie Oliver
No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski
No. 47 — Jim Donarski
No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter