There will come a point this season when you'll need Alex Zendejas.
You'll plead with the Arizona Wildcats place-kicker to keep his head down, square his shoulders and kick the ball straight.
You'll hold your breath as the ball comes off his strong right leg, and - if Zendejas has any say in it - exhale when it splits the uprights.
The nephew of former UA All-American Max Zendejas is coming into his own as a kicker, a year after connecting on 17 of 22 field goal attempts. He's more confident on the field, the result of a game-winning kick that beat Arizona State in last year's Territorial Cup game. Off the field, Alex is enjoying some home cooking - Max recently opened Zendejas #13, a Mexican-food restaurant across the street from Arizona Stadium.
Zendejas, a junior, will handle all field goals and PATs when the Wildcats open their season Friday against Toledo. For the first time in his career, he has the coaches' complete confidence.
"Alex has been really good," coach Mike Stoops said. "He's been really good all camp, and our special teams have all been good. We're just trying to fine-tune them all."
The Star talked to Zendejas, 21, about beating ASU, eating with his uncle and preparing for the 2010 season:
You seem more confident heading into this season. What's different?
"ASU helped a lot. It helped out for the rest of the season - going from the ASU game to the USC game to the Holiday Bowl. This whole summer, it was something I looked to to boost my confidence. Even coming into camp this year, it was completely different than last year."
How was your first season as a starter?
"Last year … I felt like I learned everything in one year that most people learn in four years. I had my ups, I had my downs, and I had different situations here and there that were difficult. Coming off that, coming into this season, it's completely different."
Have you changed anything, technically?
"My technique. I'm trying to be more consistent with it all, the same thing every time. Last year, I felt like I'd do something good, something bad, and then I wouldn't know what to do with it."
Your role changed midway through last season, when John Bonano took over on kickoffs. Was that frustrating or a blessing in disguise?
"To have it happen, especially during a season - and during a game … not a lot of people realize that it can really hurt. Having your position taken during a game, it's embarrassing. And having to bounce back during a game and not have your best game, it was tough. But it's been a blessing in disguise. John has been great, and it's allowed me to focus on field goals."
How often do you see your uncle Max?
"I see him on a daily basis, because he works right here."
Do you guys talk football?
"Oh, the basic stuff. 'How'd practice go? How did this go? How did that go?' That's expected. But other than that, I try to keep it simple as much as possible. I try to stay down to earth, not talk about it too much."
You probably don't go hungry much. How often do you eat there?
"I'll stop by almost every day, but I'm not getting food every day. I'm more just hanging out. I'll say hi, hang out a little bit and head home. It's right there. Even if I don't eat, I have to say hi."
• Who: UA at Toledo
• When: 5 p.m. Friday
• TV: ESPN