By John Philip Wyllie
Looking through the 2003 San Diego State Media guide, there is not a single photo of J.C. Mejia. Further scrutiny reveals that Mejia is not even listed in the 168-page publication. The reason is simple. When it was put together during the summer, the Aztecs Mexican-American place kicker was not a part of the team. He was just another student at the university with a dream. Having nailed kicks of 41, 46 and 47 yards while going 8 for 9 in the field goal department, the Salinas, California native is experiencing the type of success that many collegiate kickers can only dream of.
A year ago, the Aztecs kicking game was an abomination. After watching his kickers make only 17 of 28 field goals last season and just 10 from beyond 30 yards, Aztec coach Tom Craft made finding a reliable kicker a top priority. What he didn’t realize is that the solution to his woeful kicking game had been right under his nose all along.
Mejia kicked for Everett Alvarez High School and then for Hartnell Community College in Salinas prior to his 2001 transfer to SDSU. Highly self-confident as kickers must be, Mejia knew he could do equally well for the Aztecs. What he couldn’t get was the opportunity to prove it. His efforts to gain a tryout were thwarted in 2001 and 2002.
“I wanted them to come out and just see me kick once because I knew that was all that I needed. I knew I was good enough,” Mejia said. “They told me it was against NCAA rules to look at a kicker that is not part of the team. They told me they already had two kickers and to come back next year.”
As the 2002 kicking tandem of Tommy Kirovski and Brian Simjanovski squandered kick after kick, Mejia kept practicing on his own hoping he might one day get a chance. Craft had intended to go with junior college All-American Clinton Arial-Ryan, this season, but when his transfer fell through, Mejia was at last given a shot.
“I never quit, I always kept coming out here to practice on Saturdays and Sundays. I held on to my dream of playing here.” Mejia’s persistence has paid off for the surprising Aztecs who shut out UTEP 34-0 earlier this season and nearly knocked off Ohio State, the defending national champions the week before. For the first time in a long time the Aztecs find themselves at 3-2 heading into Saturday’s important conference game against BYU at Qualcomm Stadium.
Mejia’s biggest thrill so far was converting on a pair of long-range field goals in the legendary OSU Horseshoe. Kicking before 104,000 fans was an experience Mejia will not soon forget.
“In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would get an opportunity to kick there,” Mejia said. “During the game, I just tried to stay focused. There were a lot of fans yelling things at me, but I just tried to screen it all out. I think kicking is about 90% mental and 10% physical,” Mejia continued. “When I see we are in field goal range, I wander off on my own and do my stretches. I don’t think about anything happening around me. When you are a kicker, you don’t get many chances, so you have to be totally focused.”
Mejia’s focus and dogged determination has turned a glaring Aztec weakness into a major strength. He is equally focused about his future. Mejia hopes to one day get the opportunity to kick in the NFL, but with a degree in international business, he will have plenty of options.
SDSU returns home October 4 and battles BYU at Qualcomm Stadium (October 4).
Aztec Legend Don Coryell Returning To SDSU
The glory years of San Diego State football will be remembered Saturday night when the University honors legendary Aztec football coach Don Coryell and many of his former players. The men will be recognized at halftime of Saturday night’s football game with Brigham Young University.
The halftime ceremony will be hosted by Fred Dryer, a former Aztec player under Coryell who went on to a stand out career in the National Football League. He is now a successful actor and producer.
Coryell, a member of the Aztec Hall of Fame as well as the National College Football Hall of Fame, led SDSU to dizzying heights during his 12 years on Montezuma Mesa. His record of 104-19-2 included three undefeated teams and two national championships.
Coryell will be escorted throughout the evening by his granddaughter, Loni Lewis, a current Aztec cheerleader. Many former Aztec greats who played under Coryell will return to join the celebration, including Don Horn, Rod Perry, Isaac Curtis, Claudie Minor and Brian Sipe. Former Coryell assistant Ernie Zampese is also expected to be in attendance.
In addition to the halftime ceremony, Coryell and many of his team members will be attending the Aztec Club Tailgate. Aztec Athletic Foundation members are welcome to join Coryell at the tailgate at 5:00 pm in section F-1 of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.