Former NFL kicker gives free lessons to high schoolers in Ariz. backyard

Former NFL kicker gives free lessons to high schoolers in Ariz. backyard

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Former NFL kicker gives free lessons to high schoolers in Ariz. backyard

It is a record-hot Tuesday in Chandler, Ariz., and cars are lined up, leading to the dead-end sign at the end of the street.

An iron gate is left open for young kickers from all over the Valley to enter Luis Zendejas’ backyard.

At the edge of his front yard is a crossroads post with one sign reading, “Rancho Zendejas Dr.,” and the other, “Sun Devils Way.”

Take a sharp right, and it’s a kicker’s wonderland. A spacious, perfectly manicured yard that looks like something from a country club golf course, measuring out to 60 yards with a trio of goal posts – one NFL-wide, another that is high-school-wide, and the narrowest is the width of the Arena Football League.

Most of the kickers, ranging from seventh graders to college seniors, aim to split the AFL uprights.

Proving ground for kickers

Zendejas’ yard has been a proving ground for some of the best kickers from the Southwest to fulfill their dreams. They’ve come from around Arizona as well as California, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico, some flying in just to kick in Zendejas’ yard, he said.

Chandler Basha’s Becca Longo, whose story quickly went national this spring when she signed a national football letter of intent to kick at NCAA Division II Adams State, would fine-tune her kicks in Zendejas’ yard, he said. She is believed to be the first female to sign out of high school with a Division I or II football scholarship.

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