Joey Cejudo has taken a very similar but different path to being a starting kicker in the Arena Football League. Cejudo was a kicker in college for Youngstown State, and he had a very successful two seasons with the Penguins. Cejudo converted on 80% of his field goal attempts (20-25), with his longest field goal coming from 42 yards out. Cejudo rarely missed on extra points, as he connected on 87 of his 90 extra point attempts, and he accounted for 147 points during his time in a Penguins uniform.
Cejudo took the route that most kickers in the AFL took: playing outdoor football, whether it be collegiately or professionally. Cejudo was not picking up any jobs in the National Football League, or in the Canadian Football League, so he made a phone call in order to get himself a job as a placekicker with the Los Angeles KISS. “It’s a way to keep everything going”, Cejudo said. “I pursued the NFL first and then the CFL and then the KISS is just a few minutes from my house so I gave them a call. I gave them a tryout and they picked me up midseason.”
Cejudo was in a tough position when he was signed to replace Kevin Goessling as the KISS starting kicker. It takes a little while for rookies to get used to playing in the indoor environment, and Cejudo didn’t get the benefit of training camp to get used to it. Instead, he was rushed into the starting role, with no experience on how to kick indoors. The most notable change that Cejudo had to get used to was the goal posts. In the NFL and in college, the width of the goal posts are 18 feet six inches.
The width of the goal posts in the AFL are only nine feet apart. In addition to the width being different, the crossbar is 15 feet high, instead of being 10 feet high, which is traditional in outdoor football. Cejudo said with this being this case, there is very little margin for error when kicking in the AFL. “Your room for error is very small,” Cejudo stated. “Any little mis-hit on the ball and you’ll miss a PAT, and PATs in this game are so crucial because the game is so high-scoring and so fast.” Those little mistakes almost cost the rookie kicker in a game against the Orlando Predators earlier in the season. The KISS had taken the lead with 3:10 left, but Cejudo missed the extra point.
Orlando came down the field to tie the game with 10 seconds left, but their kicker blew the extra point. “You’ve got to lock into every kick because it could cost your team and it could cost you a spot.” With the smaller field and with only eight players on the field at a time, Cejudo has made some contributions defensively, as he’s notched nine tackles this year. “It’s very different because it’s not the norm for me,” Cejudo exclaimed. “You kick it and ‘bam’ you’re down there. If a guy gets a little crease on the return you have to go for it because you can’t rely on someone else to catch him.
At that point, he’ll be in the end zone in 15 yards.” Cejudo said the best part about playing for the KISS is being close to family. He grew up in Chino Hills, California, which is a 40-minute drive to the Honda Center, the home of the KISS. That’s a little bit closer than college, as Stambaugh Stadium, home of Youngstown State football, is 2,380 miles away from his home.
“My family has been really close to me,” Cejudo said. “It hurt a little bit going all the way out to Youngstown.” In high school and junior college they never missed a game. But when I was at Youngstown, they were only able to come out to four or five games over two years. But with this I can have my entire family come out at the games so it’s a good feeling.”