A Leg Up

Javier Arenas huffed and puffed, a little winded during post-practice interviews, but on the field throughout the first two days he has appeared to keep pace with the veteran squad members, and then some.

Arenas has been called out for a good day twice in two days by Head Coach Mike Shula, and appears to be the early (and I stress, early) leader for punt return duties.

Arenas breathed hard because he spent a few minutes extra after practice, both Wednesday and on Tuesday, hawking down footballs coming from the Alabama punters. Arenas had known for a while there's an opening on the squad for a punt returner, and he's been preparing for the role.

Arenas said he spent many a day in the summer with an old Robinson High School teammate, Delbert Alvarado, who now happens to be a punter for the University of South Florida.

He kicked to me every day, similar to what these guys deliver," Arenas said. "We would leave until I caught 15 in a row."

So what if a few seconds later Arenas admitted that some days if he caught 13 in a row and then dropped one, they would just quit instead of starting over. The point is Arenas had quality work in the summer catching punts and it's paying off.

"I realized I had a nice little chance here," he said. That's what drove me at home to catch punts every day."

In work Wednesday, he caught four in a row, with confidence and apparent ease, in situations with men bearing down on him. He muffed the fifth of five, but still got high marks from Head Coach Mike Shula.

Arenas has also made an impression on defense, with a couple of interceptions on Tuesday and compliments from the head coach on Wednesday's work, also.

"I just want to help the team in any kind of way," he said. "I'm just out here working hard. Depending on the quality of my work they can do what they want with me. The quickest I think I can help is at punt returner, honestly."

"I'm not all the way there, but I'm progressing," he said.

While some players labored in 110 degree field temperatures Tuesday (it was cooler on Wednesday), Arenas held up well.

"I'm from Tampa, Florida so I'm accustomed to this type of weather," he said. "It was probably a little hotter than it usually is in Tampa, but I'm an athlete I have to adjust to the weather to get the job done."

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