Max Zendejas loved the thrill of deciding a game with his foot in the final seconds.
Twenty-five years later, the University of Arizona kicking legend hopes to see his nephew experience the same rush.
Alex Zendejas Jr., a 17-year-old freshman from Glendale, is vying with junior Jason Bondzio to be the No. 1 kicker for the Wildcats.
“Alex is one of those guys you want to make the kick for you, the critical kick, because that’s the type of person he is,” Max Zendejas said. “He thrives under pressure. He wants the pressure kicks.”
Max could be describing himself. As a freshman in 1982, he nailed a 48-yard field goal with no time remaining to lift UA to a 16-13 win over then-No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
He went on to kick game-winners over Arizona State and others and broke almost every UA kicking record, including career field goals (79), season field goals (22) and career points (360).
When you’re a Zendejas, it seems, every kick is about pressure – and living up to the family name. Alex’s father, Alex Sr., was a kicker. Uncles Luis and Alan starred at Arizona State. His uncle Tony kicked at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Luis still owns the Sun Devils’ record for field goals in a career with 81, field goals in a season with 28 and career points by a kicker with 380.
Alex understands his family’s legacy, especially after working out the past five months with Max.
“I look forward to coming in as a Zendejas,” Alex said. “I know I am not them. I have my own technique. I still look up to them and appreciate everything they did.
“I’ve had a lot of attention in high school. I am used to it. I try not to get too big-headed.”
Max, who hit from beyond 50 yards on 13 occasions, has become Alex’s personal trainer and coach. The two have worked tirelessly, running up mountains, working out in the weight room and running bleachers almost every morning and night.
“I trained him with the idea that he was going to go down there and break all my records,” Max said.
There are no such things as days off.
“Alex has a father that has been on him and uncles that will get him up and training,” Max said. “That’s what he needs to be successful. I was one of those guys who woke up in the morning working out and went to sleep after working out. I was all about football. That’s what it took for me.”
Alex has proved he has a leg strong enough to get the job done, hitting from 59 yards out at Glendale’s Ironwood High. He connected on 55 and 45 yards attempts during an all-star game this summer.
There’s little doubt about the power in his leg.
The technique has been worked on since Day 1 – all the Zendejase have seen to that.
“He has tremendous potential; there is no question about that,” UA special teams coach Joe Robinson said. “He is very well-schooled. I like kickers who can fix it if it’s broke, who understand the mechanics, and he does. He has the talent, the knowledge and the smarts.”
Of course, Alex still has to earn the starting nod over Bondzio, who is looking for his first live action after sitting behind Nick Folk, who is now trying to make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster as a rookie.
“It’s an absolutely open competition. That’s the truth,” Robinson said. “We’re making everything equal for them right now so we can make a comparison, with the same holder and the same snapper.”
But Alex knows he’s going to be graded at a higher level.
That’s just part of being a Zendejas.
Former UA kicker Max Zendejas holds most of the school records that his nephew Alex is aiming for, including:
Career points 360
Field goals – season 22
Field goals – career 79
FG attempts – season 29
FG attempts – career 107
FG percentage – career .738
Consecutive FGs made 11
FGs over 50 yards – career 13
3 or more FGs in game 12
Games kicking FG 38
UA freshman kicker Alex Zendejas Jr. has an extensive family background that involves kickers.
Name Relationship Notable
Alex Sr. Father Kicked at Scottsdale CC
Max Uncle UA record holder; played in NFL
Luis Uncle ASU record holder; played in NFL
Alan Uncle Kicked at ASU
Tony Uncle Kicked at Nevada-Reno, NFL