Long road pays off for Molina

To say James Molina is a longshot is a bit of an understatement. He's a player who was not invited to training camp. He was issued work out T-shirt #107. He tried to transfer a year ago, but a single class would not transfer. Molina finally got to shine in front of the hometown fans at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night. It was a long and winding road for the junior college transfer, but when he finally got his chance he didn't disappoint.

Molina's first action in a Wildcat uniform was a kickoff that sailed eight yards deep into the end zone. He followed that up with a 52-yard punt on his first "official" attempt.

"I just wanted to get a good punt off, make sure I didn't take too long," Molina said. "I just wanted to get it and get rid of it."

Molina knew there was a shot to see some action, but he didn't know that he'd replace inconsistent Ryan Slack on kickoffs and struggling Danny Baugher on punt duty. He had an inkling that he might spell Slack, but the call to punt was a pleasant surprise.

Molina graduated from Pueblo High School where he was an outstanding quarterback as well as a kicker. He enrolled at East Los Angeles Community College where he was used sparingly at quarterback but did a lot of kicking.

"My freshman year I did all three, but my sophomore year I just concentrated on kicking off and punting," Molina said. "To do all three is pretty hard. I got tendonitis at the end of the season but it went away."

Molina finished up all his class work and attempted to enroll at Arizona after his freshman season. Molina was all set to join the team when he ran into a snag. It turned out that a lone science course would not transfer.

"It wasn't a bad grade or anything, it just didn't transfer over," Molina explained.

Molina went back to East L.A. and took a Geology course that would transfer, while competing for a second season.

"It was real awkward. I had to go and explain to everybody the whole story everybody who asked about it. They had another guy (punter), but he didn't mind, he played another position. It probably helped me anyway."

Molina made it for spring ball and had a good camp. He not only punted, but took snaps at quarterback after backing up an All-American quarterback that ran one of the top offenses in California while at East L.A.

Despite a solid spring, Molina was not invited to training camp. He came to every practice to watch the preseason battle between Baugher and Ramey Peru while waiting for the rosters to be expanded on the first day of school.

"I don't know why to tell you the truth," said Molina "I don't know why I wasn't invited to camp but it worked out all right."

He came in and pushed the two other punters, but could never crack the top-two and could only watch as Baugher and Peru battled each week. After Peru left the team Molina climbed the depth chart and began pushing Baugher himself. When the true freshman began to struggle, Molina was there to pick up the slack.

Even getting his first official punt was difficult. Molina boomed a 52-yarder on his first try, but a roughing penalty scratched the attempt from the record books. A second try was also erased due to a holding penalty. He finally got on the stat sheet with another 52-yarder, this time one that counted.

A walk-on, Molina would love to earn a scholarship, but for now a Hispanic Alumni scholarship makes things a lot easier for him than for many other walk-on players.

Molina enters the Oregon State game as the Wildcats' punter and will battle slack this week for a chance to handle the kick off duties in Corvallis.

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