Zander Hernandez, a senior at Glastonbury High School, signed his letter of intent to play college football at Endicott College. He is pictured with his father, Rene Hernandez, and mother, Elke Hernandez, at the team’s college signing ceremony on March 28.
For Zander Hernandez, the journey to college football has been swift.
Hernandez, a senior at Glastonbury High School, was a soccer player prior to being cut from the high school team as a junior.
That’s when he decided to trade his soccer cleats for football cleats and less than two years later he’ll be kicking it on the gridiron at next level.
“I’m excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Endicott College,” Hernandez stated on social media in March. “Thank you to my family and coaches who helped me get here.”
Hernandez admitted that up until recently he hadn’t heard of Endicott, a private school in Beverly, Massachusetts.
But upon applying, he got an academic scholarship and then after meeting with the football coach, he realized it was a match in athletics as well.
“I went for a visit and it was amazing,” Hernandez recalled. “I loved the coach, I loved the vibe, I loved everything about it.”
GHS head coach Eric Hennessy said that Hernandez possesses a strong leg and the right mindset, two qualities that kickers need to be successful.
“Nothing bothers him, he’s easy-going,” added Hennessy. “Kicking is such a mental game and he doesn’t let obstacles get in his way. He approaches it in such a positive manner and that allows him to make those clutch kicks.”
Hernandez is the third straight GHS placekicker to continue in college, prompting Hennessy to jokingly refer to the program as “Kicker U” at the team’s college commitment ceremony in late March.
2022-graduate Jack Niland recently wrapped up his freshman season at the University of New England in Maine, and 2020-graduate Ryan Smith is entering his senior season at Endicott, serving as the team’s starting kicker the past two seasons.
After Niland graduated last year, Hernandez took over as the starting varsity kicker for the Guardians after spending his junior season kicking for the junior varsity team.
Hennessy said Hernandez has always possessed a powerful kicking leg and then improved both his accuracy and consistency after working diligently in the offseason.
“He became an elite kicker,” added Hennessy.
Hernandez was both consistent and clutch this past fall, earning all-state as the Guardians won nine games and upset West Haven in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a win over Maloney on Nov. 10 that Hernandez said was the most memorable moment from his senior season.
Going into the week-nine matchup, Maloney was undefeated and the top-ranked team in the state before the Guardians dealt the Spartans their first loss, a 28-21 overtime triumph in Meriden.
“We weren’t supposed to win, it was amazing,” stated Hernandez, who made two field goals and a pair of extra points in the win.
Off the field, Hernandez is currently on the volleyball team and is also part of National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society at GHS.
At Endicott, he will study bioengineering as he joins Gulls football program that is coming off a Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) title under head coach Paul McGonagle, who has been leading the program since 2018.
For Hernandez, kicking at the college level is something he could have never have imaged at this point last year.
“I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t very good last year,” recalled the college-bound student athlete. “But coach put a lot of trust in me and the guys trusted me this year.”
Hernandez said the biggest difference between his junior and senior season in high school were the added muscle from strength training and improved technique, which he said makes all the difference.
“You can get a guy that can squat 600 pounds, but without the right technique the ball isn’t going anywhere,” added Hernandez, who added kicking a football is vastly different than kicking a soccer ball
“Soccer you try and keep it low and in football you are shooting for the stars,” he said.
Along with aiming for the stars with the Gulls, Hernandez said he is excited to becoming more independent and looks forward to living just outside of Boston.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin