Not just this week. Not just from the media. Every day. For a year.
That’s how often Arizona Wildcats senior kicker Alex Zendejas has heard about his two blocked extra points against Arizona State. The first came with 27 seconds left in regulation, leaving the game tied. The second came at the end of a second overtime in a 30-29 loss.
“A kick like that that, in a rivalry like this, knowing how intense it is between the two schools, it’s kind of hard to forget something like that,” he said this week.
Not that anyone will let him.
He said someone mentions the missed PATs to him every day.
“You have to take the good with the bad,” Zendejas said.
“Probably the same people who congratulated me two years ago are the ones mad at me a year ago. I guess it’s part of the game.”
It is. It’s part of the game. It’s a life lesson. His last-play 32-yard field goal to beat Arizona State 20-17 in 2009 all but got wiped away by the missed PATs. That happens in life. One misstep or error in judgment — or whatever — can overwhelm previous good deeds.
It is, as Zendejas said, what it is. He said he has developed a thick skin. You sign up for the glory, you risk being the goat.
“I don’t ever want to be a kicker,” said special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt.
“It’s just so hard on them. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from guys who say, ‘Coach, I can kick. I made field goals in high school.’ But, you know what, put them out there in the pressure these guys are in right now … holy cow.”
Barring some crazy circumstances, Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium won’t bring personal redemption, won’t be the rubber match of Alex Zendejas vs. Arizona State.
Zendejas already had his shot at redemption, reclaiming the starting job he lost in camp to Jaime Salazar in the fourth game of the year. But his kicks were still often low and erratic, and interim head coach Tim Kish gave kickoff man John Bonano the shot at place-kicking at midseason.
Bonano, other than coming up short on a 57-yard field goal after a bad snap, has been perfect. He is 6 of 7 on field goals and 14 of 14 on PATs.
“He’s done great. I’m proud of him,” Zendejas said on Bonano. “I’m happy for him and I hope he comes out and finishes strong against ASU.”
Zendejas still found way to contribute last week when he successfully executed an on-side kick late in the game, knocking the ball in front of him and then sticking his helmet in there to keep the ball away from a Colorado player. The ball popped loose, and Arizona recovered.
Hammerschmidt said it had been Zendejas’ idea to work on that in practice.
“If you see that thing on film, it wasn’t easy,” Hammerschmidt said. “He had a 260-pound guy running right at him and he dove and took one for the team. He came off to the sideline with his helmet wrapped around his head.”
After the season, Zendejas will eventually walk away from Arizona with a degree in economics and, he says, no regrets.
“I have had my good times and I have had my bad,” he said. “But I worked every day.”
Hammerschmidt called Zendejas “a special guy.”
“He’ll be remembered in this rivalry for last year, but also for the year before,” Hammerschmidt said. “You just never know how this damn thing works out.”