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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 15 Max Zendejas

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Kicker, 1982-85

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a Sporting News second-team All-American and a Football News third-team All-American in 1985. … Is UA’s career scoring leader with 360 points. … NCAA career leader in percentage of made field goals from 50-plus yards (60.9 percent, 14 of 23). … Ranks 14th in FBS history with 77 field goals (in 104 attempts, 74.0 percent).

Why he made our list: Never mind the accumulation of points and field goals, and his uncanny accuracy from long range — Zendejas earned his legendary status on the strength of being one of the more clutch kickers in NCAA history.

He beat Notre Dame as a freshman in 1982 with a last-play 48-yard kick into the wind.

From there, Zendejas became known as an Arizona State killer, all the more sweet because his brother Luis, a couple of years older, was an All-American kicker at ASU.

In 1983, Max’s 45-yarder on the final play gave UA a 17-15 win at ASU.

In 1984, he kicked three field goals, including from 51 and 32 yards in the fourth quarter, in a 16-10 win over ASU.

In 1985, he matched a school record with a 57-yard field goal with 5:29 left to tie the score at 13. He then hit the game-winner from 32 yards with 1:43 remaining for a 16-13 victory as the Wildcats prevented the Sun Devils from advancing to the Rose Bowl for the second time in four seasons.

“I can’t think of anyone I would rather see kicking the ball with the game on the line,” UA coach Larry Smith once said.

For good measure, Zendejas is the school leader with 123 extra points in 125 attempts. He set a school record (since broken) by making 68 in a row, a streak that was stopped by a bad snap.

Life after college: Zendejas was the 100th pick in the 1986 draft, going to Dallas in the fourth round, but he struggled in the preseason, failed to beat out veteran Rafael Septien and was cut. Zendejas lived briefly in Phoenix with Luis (who had been cut by Minnesota in the preseason) before being signed in October by the Washington Redskins to replace legend Mark Moseley.

Zendejas struggled there, too, missing five extra-point attempts and five field-goal attempts (he made nine) before being released. He hooked on with Green Bay as a replacement player in 1987 during the NFL players strike, reliving some magic by hitting a 45-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to tie Detroit, and did well enough to be asked back after the strike.

He connected on 10 consecutive field goals for the Packers during one stretch, but his time came to an end halfway through the 1988 season after he missed a potential tying 24-yard field-goal attempt with 11 seconds left against Washington.

After football, Zendejas has been involved in restaurants and other businesses in Phoenix and Tucson.

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.

Arizona’s top 50

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

No. 16 — Mike Dawson

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