Gilbert Perry kicker Christian Zendejas accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Arizona State, before the Sun Devils gave Gilbert Williams Field kicker Brandon Ruiz a scholarship to kick this winter. Ruiz committed to ASU the day after he decommitted from Alabama, then signed in February.
Did that make Zendejas rethink it?
“I talked to him and said, ‘We’re good, right?’ ” said Luis Zendejas, Christian’s father, who was one of the greatest kickers to come out of ASU, before kicking in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. “He said, ‘I’m a man of my word. Nothing, nobody is going to change my path. I want to play for ASU.’ ”
Christian Zendejas has his dad working with him on the physical and mental part of kicking daily.
Luis Zendejas looks at it as a win-win for ASU, which is turning into a kicking factory, producing last season’s Lou Groza Award winner Zane Gonzalez.
“They’ve got the two best kickers in the state,” said Luis Zendejas, who works as senior director of community relations for the Arizona Cardinals. “You’ve got power, and you’ve got accuracy. I tell my son, ‘Guess what? Both of you guys are going to be so freaking good from pushing each other. No matter what you do, you’re going to be ready.’ ”
Ruiz made various high school All-American teams last season when he made 17 of 20 field goals with his longest from 58 yards. He made 66 of 67 extra points, helping Williams Field win the 5A Conference state championship. He had 88 kickoffs that went into the end zone for touchbacks.
Christian Zendejas was 10 of 11 on his field-goal tries last season with a long of 47 yards. He converted 67 of 70 extra points.
Christian Zendejas had some smaller offers, including Hawaii. He was named the top kicker at Oregon’s camp last summer. But he always had a love of ASU growing up.
Luis Zendejas said his son thrives on competition.
“He loves it,” he said. “If you look at it, no matter where you go, you’re going to have competition. If you’re scared of competition, you’re done.
“It’s where I went to school. They’re going to make ASU a better place. Look at the coach (Todd Graham). Does he believe in kickers? Oh, yeah.”
Luis Zendejas came to ASU on scholarship during the Darryl Rogers era (1980-84), but he said the job wasn’t given to him.
“I had to beat out a senior,” Luis Zendejas said. “You’re guaranteed nothing. I got the opportunity to compete. My son said, ‘If I don’t take it on the first week, I’ll take it eventually one day.’ They’re both going to be great kickers. It’s going to be awesome.”