Penn's Jack Soslow growing into football role

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Penn’s Christian Pearson (7) and Justin Watson (5) celebrate a touchdown in the second quarter Saturday, September 16, 2017 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After taking over as Penn’s placekicker midway through last season, Jack Soslow attempted only one field goal. That came late in Game 7 at home against Brown, with the Quakers leading by seven points. He hit the right upright from 28 yards out. Penn still won, en route to a second straight co-Ivy League title.

In this year’s opener, he got his second chance, in the first quarter, against Ohio Dominican at Franklin Field. But again he hit the right upright, this time from 39 yards away.

“I like to joke that I was aiming for it,” Soslow said. “I guess that is pretty hard to do. Twice.”

Last Friday night against Dartmouth in West Philly, he finally got two more tries, first from 43 and then 27. And made them both, the last with 51/2 minutes left to give Penn a three-point lead that stood until the visitors scored on a 1-yard run on the final play.

“Football is like that,” Soslow reasoned. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes. To be honest, I’m just happy when we win. A game like Lehigh [65-47 win the previous week], where I’m just kicking extra points, means the offense is going well. I don’t have a problem doing nothing.

“Winning a championship here was an amazing experience, a dream come true. I’d love to relive it.”

Actually, they’ve won two since the 6-foot-3 junior from Haverford School arrived. And he did set a program record for PATs at Lehigh, with nine. Details.

The Quakers (2-1) are at Central Connecticut State (2-3) on Saturday, for their last non-Ivy game. They beat the Blue Devils here last year in the first meeting, 28-16.

After that, they will resume their quest for another championship at Columbia, which just won at Princeton and is 3-0 for the first time since 1996 for third-year coach Al Bagnoli. The Quakers haven’t three-peated since the mid 1980s.

A year ago, they tried five FGs and converted one, with Jimmy Gammill taking the first four. The season before that, he had gone 4 for 5 after making 11 of 16 in 2014, when he tied a school record with five in one game.

Now Soslow, who had never given football a shot until he was a senior in high school, is the guy who can make all the difference with one swing of his right leg.

“I was a soccer player all my life,” he said. “Over the summer before my last year at Haverford, I was training with a few of my friends. They knew I could kick the ball far, because I was a center back and that was kind of my job. They wanted me to try a few [FGs]. I didn’t know if I’d be good or not. I put it on the 45-yard line and put it through. That was the end of my soccer career. It was, ‘Oh, I’m playing football now.’

“My coach [Bill Brady] was surprised. He was also my club coach [with Philadelphia SC]. I think he kind of knew it was my calling. I wasn’t a special player. I was solid, a nice piece of the team. I mean, it’s all about finding your role. At the end of the day I think I did the right thing.

“The football coach [Mike Murphy] had me go out and kick a few. He watched me and went, ‘That’s enough.’ ”

Soslow kicked nine FGs, setting an Inter-Ac record for points in a season with 76. In his second game, he hit a 52-yarder, two yards shy of the all-time city best. And he routinely put kickoffs into the end zone, something he’s continued to do in college.

Still, he didn’t generate too much recruiting interest. So when he was accepted by Penn, it became an academic decision.

“That was a dream of mine,” said Soslow, who’s majoring in Statistics and Business Analytics at the Wharton School. “It was my first choice all along. Some other schools reached out to coach Murphy later, but I was set. I’d been getting good grades for 12 years. Football had just recently become part of my life. That’s really all I could think about.

And if I could be a part of a really good football team, that was an added plus. It’s been a perfect fit.”

Well, coach Ray Priore did refer to him as a near genius, which is a nice starting point.

“Because he hasn’t been out there doing it, he doesn’t get too excited,” Priore said. “The ball jumps off his foot. Now he just has to be more consistent. It’s like a golf swing. You don’t always have to unload with your driver. Sometimes you can use your pitching wedge. The one against Ohio hit way up on the flag [at the top of the upright]. He crushed it.You can’t teach the skill of hitting it that hard and far.

“Last week, when we needed that kick, he put it right through. There was as much pressure on that kick as anything. The kid is a competitive athlete. The best part about him is he doesn’t overthink it. If anything, he probably underthinks.”

Whatever gets things done. And if the Quakers end up getting a third straight ring, that’s more than enough for Soslow.

“There’s so much to learn, especially with the limited experience I had,” he said. “Maybe that’s almost for the best. There’s so much you don’t know, coming from the soccer field. You have to be mentally prepared, to accept whatever happens.

“Coach really stresses that everyone should just try to do their job. I just want to be a good part of the team. Knowing you’ve made so many kicks a million times before makes me feel more comfortable. So I’m confident, every time I go out there. I can only control what I can control.”

And just in case, maybe aim a smidge more to the left.