The University of Arkansas' 2007 recruiting class got a big kick on Monday afternoon.
That's when strong-legged Springdale kicker Alex Tejada publicly announced - both in English and Spanish - that he would be headed to the University of Arkansas, a school whose football coaches he had let know privately where he headed to last week.
"I just want to be a Razorback," Tejada said. "It's been my dream to kick in college in recent years and I am just glad to be able to accomplish that."
Tejada (5-11, 170) was set to announce his decision last Tuesday, but delayed his announcement out of respect for the passing of legendary Razorback broadcaster Paul Eells.
Owning a long field goal of 55 yards and 155 successful PATs the past two seasons, Tejada chose Arkansas' offer over one from LSU while also getting interest from Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
It was the first Arkansas offer to a kicker in several seasons and certainly the first one in recent Razorback history handed out before a kicker's senior season even started.
"That means a lot - just getting the scholarship offer meant a lot to me," Tejada said. "Being the first one in a long time means I have something to prove and I'm looking forward to that. Just being able to prove I can do it, that I can come in and make an impact and that is what I am going to do."
Razorback fans, yearning for a great kicker, had been encouraging him to stay home and join his former Springdale teammates Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams, Ben Cleveland and Andrew Norman at Arkansas.
"I have heard that from pretty much everybody," Tejada said. "I am excited. I want to be a Razorback and I think that is pretty much the best place for me to go."
Just like those four players did, Tejada who has also put 80 percent of his kickoffs through the end zone - was anxious to get his decision out of the way and announced before the regular season started.
"For me, the team comes first," Tejada said. "We have accomplishments and that is more important to me than myself. I am not a selfish person. That is what I want for my teammates. I want to win so I wanted to just get it out of the way and focus on the team."
Springdale head coach Kevin Johnson knows he has a big weapon returning for his team this season at a program where touchdowns and routs have been the norm the past two seasons, but field goals should play a bigger role this upcoming season.
"He can kick a 60-yarder if every thing was right," Johnson said. "If we cross the 35 and get stopped, then we are going to run him out and get points every time. He is going to be very valuable for us this year...He is a great kicker - probably the best I have ever seen. He has great character and is a great human being."
Tejada will be kicking in 2007 for the head coach that he kicked for in 2004 and 2005 now that former Springdale head coach Gus Malzahn is the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator.
"He trusts me and I trust him so it is a pretty good relationship and when you have that in a coaching staff it makes you feel good," Tejada said. "We still talk and we are still good friends."
Tejada, who was 84 of 89 on PATs last season and 2-of-3 on field goal attempts, has already been preparing himself to be a college kicker - one that isn't allowed to use a tee as high school kickers are during their careers.
"I have done a lot of things to help myself out these last two summers," Tejada said. "I have been kicking off the ground and trying to put restrictions on myself to make myself better. That's what I have been doing and I don't think it will be a very hard transition in that aspect."
He said that he feels very automatic shortly after his team crosses midfield.
"I feel real good from the (football on the) 45 and in," said Tejada, for what would officially be a 55-yard field goal. "Maybe 50 and in on a good day. Definitely 45 and in."
Tejada's only drawback has been a couple of dislocations of his left kneecap on his non-kicking leg.
Those have occurred once each after his sophomore and junior seasons and came both times while playing soccer for Springdale.
That has helped him decide that soccer is in his past and it's football only for the future.
"I think it was just a soccer thing," Tejada said. "A lot of people don't know but soccer is a lot more physical sport than they think. It is very demanding of the body. Being away from that has helped me a lot and just doing rehab and preparing myself and getting myself stronger.
"...You definitely run a greater risk of it happening again, but being away from soccer and keeping myself away from will help me a lot," Tejada said. "I won't be so mobile and running so much. I am definitely going to prepare for football because that is a major part of my life now and it was I want to do."
Tejada said the first injury was the hardest to overcome.
"It devastated me, but I learned a great lesson," Tejada added. "I definitely did not like being on crutches or it being immobilized, but I learned great things along the way. It is one of those things that you just have to learn to deal with because it could just happen at any time."
"The tougher one was definitely the first one - emotionally and physically and mentally," Tejada said. "I was just down on myself and I didn't want something to hold me back. I dealt with it a lot better the second time."
He feels almost completely recovered from his second injury, saying that he is "95 percent" healthy and now wearing a comforting knee brace on that plant leg.
"I feel really good right now," Tejada said. "It's been a few months. I got hurt at the very beginning of March , but I feel good now and they did a very good job. I feel very confident in that right now."
Because Springdale has been so good the past two seasons, Tejada has not had the opportunity to decide a game at the end.
He would like to do that for the Red Bulldogs this year and for the Razorbacks beginning in 2007.
"I want to make that game-winning kick," Tejada said. "That is what I want to do and that is my dream. I am just excited to maybe have the opportunity to do that."
Tejada commits to Hogs
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