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6 Zendejas Cousins Are Star Kickers

By JEFFREY T. SHAIN

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Football has had several placekicking families over the years. The Gogolaks, Charley and Pete, were the first of the breed, and Chris and Matt Bahr followed them into the National Football League.

Now, football scouts have to like what they see coming out of Chino, Calif.

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The Zendejas family is just beginning to make itself known in the land of professional football.

Joaquin Zendejas kicked at LaVerne College in California and hung on with the San Diego Chargers until this season's final cut, where he was beaten out by veteran Rolf Benirschke. Meanwhile, brothers Luis and Max are kicking at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, respectively.

But wait, there's more.

Cousin Tony Zendejas was the Big Sky Conference's first-team placekicker as a junior with Nevada-Reno in 1982, and his brother, Martin, is the Wolf Pack's kicker of the future, having enrolled as a freshman.

And to top things off, Alan Zendejas, brother of Joaquin, Luis, and Max, plays high school football and soccer back in Chino.

Luis Zendejas says the family's kicking tradition was started by his father, Joaquin Sr.

'He always wanted one of us to become a professional soccer player, but it hasn't come yet,' Luis says. 'We all went into football.'

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It was Jack Cappes, football coach at Don Antonio Lugo High School, who had the good fortune to be the recipient of the brothers' decision, as he coached Luis, Max and Alan to All-CIF honors over the years. Joaquin, Tony and Martin kicked for nearby Chino High School.

The decision also makes for interesting competition over the summer, when frequently all six Zendejas kickers gather on one football field to practice. Luis says the group kicking sessions improved everybody's performance.

'It (competition) makes you a better player,' Luis says. 'You have something to compare yourself to, because if you practice by yourself you might end up backing off.'

One would think that with the rivalry Arizona State and Arizona have had over the years, there would be more intense competition between Luis, a junior, and Max, a sophomore.

However, Max doesn't see it that way, saying, 'Basically he does his thing and I do mine.'

Luis says there are not many differences between the six cousins, as each was taught by the same person -- Joaquin Sr.

'We all have the same style (soccer-style) and just about the same rhythm, so you can't make too many comparisons.'

Even though Joaquin didn't make the Charger squad, Luis is sure his brother will end up hooking on with another professional team.

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'He's the one with the strongest leg and everything,' Luis says. 'He just never got the recognition with the school he went to. There's just no way I can see another kicker better than him.'

He's not sure if Joaquin was hurt by not going to a major college.

'They'll find you if you're good enough,' Luis says. 'But I think (because of the larger school) they'll have more trust in you.'

Does the family think that the name Zendejas will grace the backs of six professional uniforms in the near future?

'We all have the potential to be there,' Luis says. 'It's just the chance (that we need).

'But I wouldn't doubt it.'

adv for weekend sept.

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