BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -When Colorado kicker Kevin Eberhart talks about shooting for the stars, it's not the usual talk by a college football player of hearing his name called on draft day.
His goal isn't the NFL; it's NASA.
He's not thinking about hefty paychecks but ample payloads.
Eberhart is working on a lunar module project as part of the master's degree in aerospace engineering he'll receive this spring.
``I'm doing bioastronautics, focusing on manned operations in space, whether that be Mars or on-orbit operations or the moon,'' he said. ``There's a big push from NASA and private industry to get back to the moon and extrapolate that to Mars and other operations, mining asteroids, whatever it might be.''
Lockheed Martin Corp. has designed the launch vehicle, and ``the part we're working on is actually the part that's going to land on the moon,'' Eberhart said.
So it's been a pretty hectic semester for Eberhart, a senior who succeeded two-time All-American Mason Crosby this season and has kicked game-winners against Colorado State and then-No. 3 Oklahoma while converting 14 of 21 field goal attempts.
This brainiac is known for sneaking in studies whenever he can, burying himself in books and grappling with all manner of perplexities.
``I don't know how he always did it,'' said Crosby, now with the Green Bay Packers. ``He'd have to take classes at the beginning of practice and they'd kind of overflow. I felt like he was going nonstop. He'd sleep at the engineering building. We'd come in in the spring for offseason program stuff and he'd be like, 'What's up?' And I'd found out he'd just slept in the engineering building and walked over that morning. He's a very intelligent, smart guy and he's going to be doing great things.''
Free time? Eberhart laughs at the notion.
``To me, it really means giving up a few extra weekends and going home at night instead of going and hanging out or watching TV,'' Eberhart said. ``It's cracking the books and getting in a few more hours than a lot of people would have to. It just really comes down to time management. I think that's been a great skill that I've really had to learn and I'm glad that I have because I think that will be invaluable in the future.''
The son of taxidermist father and a mother who works for the city of Broomfield, Colo., Eberhart was fascinated by rockets and sports growing up.
When he graduated from high school early and enrolled at Colorado for the spring semester in 2002, however, he didn't envision his college experience playing out like this.
``Honestly, I've got to say I was thinking more into the sports and football. I mean that, out of high school you don't know what you're getting into. And that's where the prestige is. Everybody's 'Oh, you're going to play for the Buffs.' They're not like, 'Oh, you're going to go sit in the classroom for four years.'''
Eberhart became just the third Buffaloes kicker to play as a freshman. But after missing two field goals against Florida State, he gave way to Crosby, a fellow freshman who would have a stellar four-year run that culminated with his selection by the Packers in last year's NFL draft.
Backing up a two-time All-American was bad for Eberhart's ego but good for his mind.
``Coming out of high school, you're 18 and you really expect you're going to come in here and you're going to be the guy and you're going to do everything and it was really a tough pill to swallow that it wasn't going to happen and to wait my turn,'' Eberhart said.
``But on the flip side of that, it gave me the opportunity to focus on school a little bit more than maybe I would have. It's not the course I would have chosen, but I wouldn't trade it now.''
Eberhart, who redshirted his sophomore season, wouldn't trade the mile-a-minute pace he's on.
``You live up here in Colorado and you look outside and it's the great sunshine. A lot of times, it is a relief just to get out of the classroom and be outside and move around and get your body going. And vice versa, I think it's great sometimes to be able to be in the classroom and sit still,'' Eberhart said.
``You know, there's a real trick to being able to be where you are when you're there. When you're in a classroom, you focus on school and when you're on the field you really focus on football and really try not to cross over too much.''
Surprisingly, Eberhart isn't as fastidious in his approach to kicking as he is in his studies.
``When I kick, I'm not that methodical about taking the perfect steps. I'm not. And I try to be and I try to get into it, but it's just never been the way I did it, it never worked for me. So, in that respect I just go out and let it happen a little bit more,'' Eberhart said.
``And in the classroom, and doing work, it's really meticulous and step by step. So, strangely enough they're quite different. But if I could ever get that down with the kicking to be more meticulous, that would be a good thing.''
Eberhart has just one more guaranteed game - Nov. 23 against Nebraska. A win over the Cornhuskers, however, would make Colorado (5-6) bowl eligible just one year after a 2-10 season.
Then, he'll go back to shooting for the stars.
``The NFL is something if I had the opportunity to do I think it would be an amazing opportunity. But I've really been gearing up as long as I've been here to do some kind of career in the engineering field,'' Eberhart said. ``That's what I'm really passionate about.''
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis., contributed to this story.
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