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From Zero To Hero: The Saga of Andre Heidari

Andre Heidari's career has been bumpy, but can he carry the momentum from last week's game winner through the rest of this season?

Jeff Gross

USC senior kicker Andre Heidari has had a roller coaster of a career in Los Angeles.

In 2010, Heidari was named an Under Armour All-American while playing for Stockdale High School in Bakersfield, CA. The following season he took his talents to South Central joining the Trojans as the No. 1 kicker recruit in the country.

As a true freshman, Andre Heidari finished the season 15-for-17 on field goals (88.2 percent), the third best in the nation, and was a perfect 50-for-50 on PATs. His spectacular first season was good enough to earn him a spot on CBSSports.com and Phil Steele's Freshman All-American team. Heidari also earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors.

In just one season, the young Trojan kicker lived up to the hype and was on track to finish college with a job waiting for him on an NFL team -- or so everyone thought.

Andre Heidari's career began to dwindle after an injury to his knee during the 2012 season opener against Hawaii. He underwent arthroscopic surgery, and missed the Trojans' next two games (Syracuse and Stanford). Heidari returned to finish the season just 10-for-16 on field goals, a percentage slightly more than a quarter less than the prior season.

Although his sophomore season wasn't nearly as successful as his freshman season, he was generously named 2012 All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

Entering 2013, the struggles of the prior season were behind him, his knee had a year to recover, and the expectations were high.

In the season opener in Honolulu, Heidari hit a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half. It was the fourth longest field goal in USC history, and the longest since Quin Rodriguez's 54-yarder against Michigan State in 1990.

Heidari had restored Troy's confidence in him...at least for the next six days. His next game he went 0-for-2 on field goals, and the Trojans lost to Washington State by three. Confidence in Andre Heidari slowly crumbled as the season progressed. The confidence completely shattered when he was just 1-for-3 on field goals against rival Notre Dame, and the six points that Heidari threw in the trash would've won the Trojans the game.

Doubt began to creep into the minds of the coaching staff, and it spread through Troy like wildfire. Following Heidari's performance against Notre Dame, interim head coach Ed Orgeron had an open competition to be the team's new kicker. Fortunately for Heidari, and in hindsight fortunately for Trojan fans everywhere, like the rest of their roster, USC had no depth at kicker and he kept his job.

The fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal came into the Coliseum to beat the Trojans and keep their national championship hopes alive. However, Andre Heidari buried those hopes with a 47-yard field goal to win the game with 0:19 left. The same player that almost lost his job a few weeks before became the Trojan hero.

His junior season was an improvement from his sophomore season, but not by much. Although his PAT percentage slightly dropped, he improved his field goal percentage by six percent, going from 62% in 2012 to 68% in 2013.

Unfortunately for Heidari, being a one-game hero wasn't enough to erase his abysmal junior season. The senior who has been the team's kicker for the last three seasons spent this August scrapping to remain the starting placekicker. Matt Boermeester, a blue shirt kicker, started fall camp strong and impressed new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

"We're letting these guys compete," Sarkisian said at the beginning of fall camp. "To Matt's credit, he's kicked the ball pretty consistent for three straight days. I think he's only missed two kicks, so he is making it a little bit uncomfortable for Andre, which is exactly what we want."

Sarkisian believed Andre Heidari's struggle were one of the mind.

"For Andre it's really clear to see, three days into training camp, we've got to find a way to get him more consistent mentally so that he can be consistent physically."

But by the end of the fall, Heidari had fought off Boermeester, and retained his job.

Last week, the Trojans traveled to Palo Alto to take on the Cardinal in a game that Stanford was looking for revenge after USC, or more specifically Heidari, crushed their national championship hopes. On a crucial fourth down play, Sarkisian had to make the biggest decision of the game, one that ultimately could alter the course of the entire season.

Go for it on fourth-and-5 from the 35-yard line or trust the kicker that had given the team every reason not to believe in him? Whether it was a gut feeling, or a text from Pat Haden, Steve Sarkisian took the leap of faith and sent Heidari out to kick a 53-yarder to give the Trojans a lead.

That's exactly what he did.

Heidari boomed it right down the middle, with room to spare. USC went on to win 13-10. Once again, Andre Heidari was the school's hero, and he was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.

The big question moving forward, is what will our opinion of him be after this week? Will he remain the hero that has upset Stanford twice, or will he go back to being despised by Trojan fans everywhere? That's the kind of ride kickers go on during their career. Is it necessarily fair? No. But it's in the job description.

The only way to get off the roller coaster is to stay the hero. So Andre Heidari, bring your career to full circle and be a freshman again.