Josh Pollack could have taken the easy way out.
Degree in hand and a year of eligibility remaining, he had the ability to transfer from the Arizona Wildcats and play immediately somewhere else. There was no guarantee that he’d be get to play here this season, not after losing a preseason competition for the placekicking job he’d held since the start of 2016.
But Pollack stuck around, and that decision turned out to be the right one. For him and Arizona, which can’t afford to have issues on special teams with the problems that both its offense and defense have dealt with this season.
“I never considered transferring,” Pollack said Tuesday, a few days removed from going 3 for 3 on field goals and making all three extra points in Arizona’s 31-30 loss at UCLA. “I love this team, I’ve been here for five years now and it’s just who I am. I have a good situation here. All my friends are here and with a good support system it made it easy to stay.”
A graduate student, Pollack is 5 for 7 on field goals (and 7 for 7 on PATs) since replacing sophomore Lucas Havrisik as Arizona’s starter three weeks ago. His performance at UCLA marked the first time Arizona has had three or more field goals in a game, without a miss, since last October, and it was the first time in Pollack’s college career he’d been perfect while attempting at least three field goals.
“It felt good,” Pollack said of the UCLA game, in which he connected from 29, 39 and 29 yards out. “I felt confident, going 3-for-3 always feels good.”
Pollack’s Arizona career has seen him not just win, then lose, then win the placekicking gig but also serve as the Wildcats’ punter all of 2016 and part of last season. But his first action this year didn’t come until the final seconds of a 24-20 home loss to USC, when he was brought on to attempt an onside kick (which was unsuccessful).
That came right after Havrisik shanked a PAT that would have pulled Arizona within three, making it possible to tie the game with a field goal had the Wildcats recovered the onside kick.
That miss proved to be the last straw for Havrisik, who was just 4 of 9 on field goals in addition to missing two extra points.
Pollack said he can feel for Havrisik, and for anyone in the close-knit kicking community.
“I know what they’re going through,” he said. “I know what it’s like to go out there and have one shot to do what you do. So you feel for them, and a lot of us our friends because of the camps and everything so you have a relationship with a lot of these guys.”
While he was never hoping Havrisik would struggle, Pollack said he made sure to be ready in case an opportunity came up. The first step in that was not allowing his disappointment at losing the kicking competition linger.
“It’s always hard no matter what position you are, no matter what year you are, if you’re a first-year guy or a fifth-year guy,” he said. “And you kinda just have to take it and learn from it, use it to motivate you. I never stopped working like I had. I probably ended up working harder, hoping for that shot. And if that day came or it didn’t come, I can leave knowing that I did what I could.
“Stick with it, you never know what’s going to happen if you run away from it. If you run away from it, the ending is set. But if you stick with it, you never know.”
Pollack said he’ll participate in Arizona’s pro day early next year but he already has his “backup plan” if football doesn’t work out. He’ll complete his Master’s in accounting in the spring and then head to Michigan State for law school.