In the era of the 85-scholarship limit, college coaches have every reason to allocate each slot wisely. When a team signs a top running back, nobody bats an eye regardless of the roster. Specialty positions have the opposite reaction. But players like Colton kicker Alejandro Maldonado can offer many dimensions to a team, and he can do it right away.
Duck Sports Authority caught up Colton's Head Coach during Maldonado's four-year career, Harold Strauss.
"The key for Alejandro is that he's ready to deliver," explained Strauss. "He has been kicking off the ground for the last year and a half. Most guys coming out of high school have been kicking off the tee, but he's been reaching that distance off the ground already. In the summer he said he wanted to do it. I told him 'are you sure you don't want to use that block? You'll get another ten yards.' But that was OK because he just kicks and kicks and kicks."
Kicks and kicks and kicks, Coach Strauss? We nearly got the point after kicks number two. The 30-year coaching veteran with over 200 wins wanted to make a point. Maldonado kicks an abnormal quantity of footballs.
"He'll kick for two hours. Most kickers you see will kick a few then rest then kick a few. He'll kick then punt then kick. The kid never stops."
As a senior, Maldonado amassed impressive numbers as a punter and a kicker. Punting the football only 24 times all season, he place 20 of them inside the 20 yard line and netted 40.33 yards. He kicked off 67 times, 55 of them for touchbacks. He made 51/51 extra points his final season.
Strauss recently retired from the coaching side of his duties, but for Maldonado's four years, witnessed a young man who has contributed more than his responsibilities on-field.
"No matter where we are, Alejandro has his ball with him and he kicks," Strauss said. "If we're at camps, at passing leagues, wherever, he kicks. And he'll have a bunch of kids following him around and he'll teach them how to kick. That's one of the neatest things about him. He gives so much back to the community because he understands what's been given to him. He seems to have kids following him around wherever he goes. He's like the Pied Piper and he loves it, teaching kids how to kick. Watching him with the kids' smiles, it makes us laugh because it's a neat thing."
At times, the veteran Athletic Director side of Strauss slipped through his defenses.
"We're big into community service and that sort of thing but we don't have to ask him, he just does it. I think you'll have a great time with him not just in the program but in the community up there."
Strauss used an anecdote from Maldonado's freshman year to illustrate to DSA what a special kicker Colton is sending to Eugene.
"He was a soccer player but as a freshman he decided to become a football player and just kick. This is a good example what brilliant coaches we are. I'm sitting there and we're watching him as a freshman on JV's kicking them in the end zone. I'm not thinking much about it. About the third game it dawns on me, my guy is not kicking it into the end zone, who is this kid? So we watch one more and sure enough he kicks it into the end zone and I say 'we're moving him up for the next game'. That's good coaching."
As Strauss saw more of Maldonado, he realized the math behind his decades-established 'go-for-two' policy had changed.
"If you know our offense, you know we've always gone for two forever. It's been 27 years that I've done that. So I tease him with the warning 'Alejandro, you're the only guy I've had in 30 years that I've changed my philosophy about going for two for…' He was just awesome, kicking field goals from 50-out, 60-out."
For the Oregon Ducks, Maldonado has the potential to do many things. Kickoffs, field goals, extra points and even punting and will certainly be given a look at all of them. But there is no question that with any scholarship limit, finding one for Maldonado is an easy decision.