On Saturday, Anders Carlson surpassed Wes Byrum and moved into second place all-time in made field goals in Auburn history. Anders, who has made 62 field goals throughout his career, trails only his brother, Daniel, who made 92 field goals for Auburn from 2013-2017.
Over the last eight years, it's been a regular sight to see a tall, blonde kicker with the last name "Carlson" printed across the back of his jersey trot onto the field to kick for the Tigers.
A frequent visitor to Auburn games, however, knows that this is nothing unusual. That's because brothers Daniel and Anders Carlson have been facets within the Auburn football program for the past eight years.
Younger brother Anders returned for his fourth season of eligibility this year. Older brother Daniel joined the team as a redshirt freshman in 2013, so this season marks the ninth season with at least one Carlson listed on the roster.
Daniel’s foray into kicking began the way that many kickers began their career. He was a high school soccer player pulled into football by a team needing a kicker. A family friend from church coordinated special teams for the high school and reached out in hopes that one of the Carlson boys would be open to trying the position out.
“He came up to my dad was like, ‘Hey, do any of your sons want to play football?’" Daniel said. "That afternoon we went out and tried kicking a football for the first time, and I enjoyed it."
He agreed to join the team, but at the time, he still wanted to focus on soccer.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
"I was like, ‘Okay, as long as I can still play soccer and show up Friday nights for games, I'll be part of this,'" Daniel said. "That's how it started, and then it morphed into me eventually kind of leaving soccer behind and pursuing football more.”
As a high school recruit, Daniel's commitment to Auburn was a bit unexpected. The Carlson family is deeply entrenched in the University of Alabama. Both parents, Jodie and Hans, attended the school.
A sign of the family’s conflicting loyalties came on an official visit, post-commitment, when Jodie’s ringtone went off, with some unintended results.
“Her ringtone on her cell phone was the Alabama fight song," Daniel said. "We're in the coaches’ hallway, and all of a sudden, it starts going off, and it's in the very bottom of her purse and she’s just frantically digging around to shut it off. Some of the coaches are peeking out of their offices like, ‘What is going on?’"
Upon his arrival to The Plains, Daniel took a redshirt. That season, he witnessed the Kick Six, the Prayer in Jordan-Hare, an SEC Championship and a trip to the national championship. He joined the team the same year Gus Malzahn took over as head coach following the departure of Gene Chizik.
It was baptism by fire into Auburn athletics.
Once Daniel finally took the field in 2014, Auburn’s A-Day game was an early indication of the success that would soon follow. Going into his freshman season, he was named special teams MVP.
Beginning his career in the fall of 2014, the oldest Carlson brother kicked in all 13 regular season games. He also punted in 12 of them.
His first collegiate field goal was a 27-yard kick in game two against San Jose State, a small beginning for the big things to come.
His successful freshman season came to a close with a perfect record on all 57 PATs, the most in a season for an Auburn kicker without a miss. He secured an honorable mention for The Associated Press' All-SEC team and a place on the academic honor roll. His five field goals in a high-scoring 44-55 Iron Bowl were the most in a single game by an Auburn kicker since 1996, and his 18 points scored tied Auburn’s single-game record.
Daniel's success in 2015 was a bright spot in a 7-6 season where the Tigers floundered to 2-6 in the SEC. In the opening Chick-Fil-A kickoff game against Louisville, his career long 56-yard field goal was the fifth-longest in the FBS, earning him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career.
He set an Auburn record with 16 consecutive field goals and was one of only three FBS kickers in 2015 to make four field goals of 51-plus yards. The four field goals also broke Auburn’s record of successful 50-plus yard field goals.
The record for consecutive successful PATs grew to 97 in 2015, the fourth longest in Auburn’s history and a record the brothers later combined to break in 2019.
Daniel was a Lou Groza Award nominee, a finalist as one of the top three kickers in the nation in 2015.
In Daniel’s third year of eligibility, he kicked in every game and broke Auburn’s single-season points record with 128. He recorded the nation’s second-best touchback percentage and 28 field goals made put him third in SEC history.
A Sept. 10 game against Arkansas State in Jordan-Hare Stadium marked a high in Daniel’s career, when he totaled 21 points for the day and set foot in real estate most kickers will never see: the end zone.
Holder Tyler Stovall caught the ball from the long snapper and, instead of placing it on the ground for the kick, threw an overhead pitch to Daniel. The defense was left flatfooted as Carlson made the 20-yard run to uproar from the fans in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Daniel earned SEC Player of the Week honors for the first time that season.
Another particularly memorable game that season was on Sept. 24 against LSU, when Daniel scored all the points in an 18-13 win, adding another SEC Player of the Week title to his belt.
Daniel graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business that August and was named the Auburn male athlete of the year for the 2016-17 school year, was a Lou Groza award finalist and earned spots on the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll and Community Service Team.
In 2017, there was a second Anders brother added to the depth chart. Daniel had introduced football to Anders, and then Auburn.
“He kind of followed a little after me," Daniel said. "Once I was kind of kicking a little high school, he would mess around with it, but he didn’t play until high school and same thing: he was a serious soccer player all the way through high school, but he got a little earlier start than me."
Daniel continued his career as a graduate student, while Anders took a redshirt his freshman year.
Anders sat back for a year in 2017 and watched his big brother do his thing. The season went just like the rest: Daniel broke records, assisted the team and earned points left and right.
Auburn’s reliance on Daniel’s leg pushed him to the top of the SEC’s leader board for all-time scorers in the Oct. 7 game against Ole Miss, with a total 480 points scored. To this day, the list is not topped by a large, Heisman-winning offensive player. It shows the name of a lanky soccer player from Colorado who had his team's and coaches’ trust.
“I think it's really cool and just shows that we had ... a lot of great years while I was playing here," Daniel said. "I was able to be a part of that, help the team out to get some points.”
He set SEC records with 92 field goals and 198 consecutive PATs, a record he worked toward his entire career. Daniel's field goal percentage on 50-plus yard kicks is second-best in the NCAA record books.
For the third consecutive year, Daniel was named a Lou Groza Award finalist. He was also the SEC special Teams Player of the Year for a second year in a row and received an invitation to the NFL Combine.
Anders stepped into his big brother’s starting position in 2018, with some large shoes to fill.
Spring camp opened with buzz around the freshman, when Anders kicked a 62-yard field goal in Auburn’s indoor practice facility. Concluding spring training, he earned A-Day’s special teams MVP with four field goals.
Auburn went 8-5 that season, but struggled to 3-5 in conference play. In the regular season, Anders made 15 of 25 field goal attempts and was perfect over 44 PAT attempts, building on the streak Daniel grew.
The season’s highlight was a 53-yard kick against Washington, the second longest by a freshman in Auburn history. He also got some dual-purpose action with a three-yard reception in the Tigers’ Iron Bowl loss.
Anders returned as the starter in 2019, with another successful season added to his resume. Auburn went 9-4 and pulled out a winning 5-3 conference record. He earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the Iron Bowl, going 4-for-4 on field goals.
On Oct. 19, a major benchmark with the Carlson name beside it was set. Anders, with his brother's help from 2013-2017, kicked the 303rd consecutive made PAT for Auburn, which set an NCAA record.
It was promptly snapped on the very next PAT attempt, which was no good.
Carlson’s third year at starter was unusual in the midst of the pandemic. The highlight of his season came in a win against Arkansas, as Auburn fought through the rain and Anders made a 39-yard field goal to push the Tigers to a 30-28 win.
Time brought more consistency to Anders' field goal kicking, with his make percentage increasing from 60% in 2018, to 72% in 2019, to over 90% in 2020. However, because of the shortened season, he didn't get as many kicks as years past.
“He didn't get as many as you usually in a year, but obviously I think he's got the talent, the ability to be 90% field goal kicker," Daniel said of his brother.
He was named one of 20 semi-finalists for the Lou Groza award, first-team All-SEC by the Associated Press and second team in the coaches’ poll.
Both Daniel and Anders have set the bar for the Carlson name high. However, the growing consistency through Anders’ career indicates that 2021 could be another chance for improvement.
In four games this season, Anders has made nine-of-10 field goals and 18-of-19 PATs. He kicked four field goals in Auburn's 34-24 victory over Georgia State, which tied a career-most in a game. With his third made field goal on Saturday, Anders surpassed Wes Byrum for second-most made field goals all-time in Auburn history.
The only person ahead of him? His older brother.
Although they both had successful careers at Auburn, they're brothers, which means they'll find something to argue about, namely, who's better at trick plays?
With new special teams coordinator Bert Watts, there is no way to know whether Anders will get the chance to execute any trick plays of his own this season. He's shown athleticism making tackles on returned kickoffs, so there could be another Carlson touchdown in the future.
After college, Anders may join his brother in the NFL, where Daniel has been kicking professionally for three years.
Daniel was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the first kicker off the board.
His time with the Vikings was short-lived, though. In his second game with the Vikings, Daniel missed three field goals, two in overtime and one a potential game winner as time expired, which prompted his release from the team.
This provided an opportunity, though, to reevaluate what the larger stage required. He spent his five-week stint off an NFL roster getting back to the level of confidence and success he would need to play again.
Daniel then joined the Oakland Raiders for their 2018 season, setting a franchise record with a single-season 94.1 field goal make percentage. He returned to the Raiders in 2019 with a 73.1 percentage on the season.
Daniel remained on the team through its move to Las Vegas, nailing 94.3% of his field goals on a career-high 35 attempts.
After a somewhat bumpy start, Daniel has adjusted to the NFL, but still misses the college environment.
“It's definitely a different environment," Daniel said. "Auburn obviously has that family feel, such an awesome community, and it’s a brotherhood playing with your teammates and stuff. The NFL is definitely a bit more of a business. I obviously love it, wouldn’t trade it for the world, but playing college football is hard to beat."
Daniel is still with the Raiders, spending the offseason in Auburn with his wife Katherine and daughter Lily before returning for the 2021 NFL season.
“My coaches have joked about in a couple years when Anders has come to the NFL, cutting me because it would be cheaper at that point," Daniel said. "Hopefully, I get to play again so that he doesn't have to replace me again. Hopefully I'll still be sticking around for a few more years after he's in the NFL as well.”
Between seasons, Daniel stays in Auburn, so they spend time together playing tennis, kicking footballs and taking advantage of their proximity. Being younger, Anders was always the underdog, but time and practice have brought him closer and closer to equivalence with his brother.
“We’re able to compete a little more now that he's grown up and a little more competitive than he was when he was 12 years old,” Daniel said.
If you ask them to compare their skills, they'll tell different tales. Anders likes to say he's the superior athlete because he's caught a pass in a game, but Daniel says his touchdown gives him the edge.
“I'll make sure I say that I am the superior athlete because I do have a touchdown and he does not. He’s had a couple fakes or whatever through his college career so far, but no touchdowns yet,” Daniel said. “I think we raced like a week ago and I beat him.”
"Carlson" continues to be a household name for Auburn fans, thanks not only to the brothers’ athletic ability but also their humility in the spotlight. The brothers were well-known to fans for their consistent scoring contributions and could be seen at athletic events, greeting long lines of fans.
While it's likely Anders will leave Auburn for the NFL after the upcoming season, all athletes have an extra year of eligibility following shortened seasons due to COVID-19, potentially putting a Carlson on the field for a decade.
“It’s been a long time, all the time that we've been kicking," Daniel said. “I'm sure for a while fans are like, ‘How is this Daniel Carlson kid still out there?’"
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman