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Sports Talk : When It Comes to Kicking a Football, Velasco Family Intends to Toe the Line

September 14, 1989|Fernando Dominguez

Message to the Zendejas of Chino, America's foremost football-kicking family: You're not alone anymore.

The Velasco brothers have joined the act.

Led by 22-year-old Alfredo, a senior All-American who stands second all-time at UCLA in field goals and fourth in scoring, the Velascos are working toward a career in professional football.

They hope to emulate the feat accomplished by their celebrated predecessors, the Zendejas (brothers Joaquin, Luis, Max, Allan and Alex and cousins Tony and Martin), who have played or still play at the high school, collegiate or professional levels.

Alfredo's supporting cast includes brothers Salvador, 21, a junior at the University of Hawaii who transferred there after two standout years at Glendale College, and 20-year-old junior Abelardo (Abo), the Cal State Northridge place kicker for the last two seasons.

They all use the same right-footed soccer-kicking technique learned from their father, also named Alfredo. They deployed that kicking style in youth soccer and later refined it for the gridiron at Ben Agajanian kicking clinics. Now the three share an ambition to make it as National Football League kickers.

"I'm definitely thinking pro ball," said Salvador by telephone from Hawaii, "preferably with a West Coast team."

Salvador, who was a second team All-American at Glendale College, is contending for the place-kicking spot at Hawaii with Jason Elam, who was the team's kicker last year.

Said Abo, who was all-league as a running back, defensive back and kicker in high school: "I didn't try for anything else (at Northridge) because I didn't think it would be to my advantage in the long run. I ended up kicking because I want to play pro ball."

The Velascos see the new National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rule on kicking field goals off the turf--as pro kickers do it--and not from a tee as a helpful step in the transition to the professional game.

"It kind of eliminates the guessing by the pros," said Alfredo, who at 5-feet, 10 inches and 188 pounds is an inch taller than his brothers and a little heavier. "Now they can figure whether a guy can do it before they draft him. . . . I know that, if I have as successful a year as I've had the last couple of seasons, I'll get drafted."

And banner years they were.

In 1987, he became only the second UCLA kicker after John Lee to tally more than 20 field goals in a season and was 19 for 19 from 44 yards or closer. His 108 points scored rank second in school history behind Lee's 117.

Last year, Alfredo set a UCLA single-season record by making 89.5% of his field goals and led the Pac-10 conference in scoring with 89 points. He made all 43 kicks he attempted for points after touchdowns, and his longest field goals were from 53 and 50 yards.

One national publication chose him as a pre-season All-American, and another ranked him second in the country among collegiate kickers.

All pretty impressive for one of three brothers who did not even consider playing football until their teens.

Born in Mexico City, the Velascos moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and soon afterward to Burbank. Their mother, Olivia, now a housewife, worked as a teacher's aide, and their father, who for years was involved in semiprofessional soccer leagues in the San Fernando Valley, is a welder at an aircraft company.

They have a U.S.-born sister, Jeannette, 18, who plans to play basketball at Los Angeles Valley College this fall and who used to be the holder for the boys during informal practices.

Like many protective parents, the Velascos were apprehensive when one of the boys' uncles, Efrain Velasco, a former kicker at the University of Utah, suggested several years ago that the brothers get into the sport.

"We thought it was kind of dangerous, so we didn't encourage it too much," said Olivia Velasco.

However, then-Burbank High School head football coach Dave Carson had other ideas. He landed Alfredo on the squad as a junior and followed down the line until he ran out of Velascos, whose No. 10 jerseys were retired by the school after Abo graduated.

"I really wanted to play basketball, but the coach grabbed me because I was Alfredo's and Sal's brother. So I tried it," Abo said.

Alfredo and Abo even claim that Carson contemplated using Jeannette as a kicker too, but Salvador doesn't think the coach was serious.

"Luckily, she was saved by one of our cousins (Eugene Saldana), who became the kicker," Alfredo said.

For the parents, the main concern now is how to see their sons' games on Saturdays. With a bit of help from the schedule makers, they can drive from the UCLA games at the Rose Bowl to Northridge and later watch the Hawaii games--because of the time differential--on cable TV or hear them on the radio.

"It's pretty wild. They got the VCR set up and the tape recorder going on the radio, and they are running from one place to the next," Salvador said.

"We wouldn't think of missing any of the games," Olivia Velasco said.

And they'll be as devoted, no doubt, if Alfredo, Salvador and Abo make it to pro football. They'll just have to leave their Sundays open from fall through winter, instead of their Saturdays. And stock up on VCR tapes.

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