ORONO — As the punter for the University of Maine football team, Jordan Waxman often is forced to stand alone.
Whether he’s dealing with a oncoming opponent, or studying for an upcoming exam, Waxman is a young man who has learned the value of establishing consistency.
The senior from Kintnersville, Pa., hopes to achieve some serious hang time Saturday when the Black Bears visit Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, for a 1 p.m. game against the University of Pittsburgh.
“It’s going to be a great experience playing in an NFL stadium against a good team,” said Waxman, who handles punts and kickoffs. “Hopefully, we don’t get too starry-eyed.”
Waxman has been a study in persistence since enrolling at UMaine.
Admittedly, his unspectacular academic performance in high school cost him the opportunity to play elsewhere. The UMaine coaching staff saw his potential.
“He’s a guy who, both academically and athletically, didn’t have a lot of structure in his life,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
Waxman took a quick road to becoming a Division I prospect.
He played soccer and baseball until he started ninth grade at Quakertown High School. He envisioned himself playing wide receiver, but the coach had other ideas.
“My mom told the coach, ‘oh, he can kick,’” said Waxman, who could, and did.
Waxman, who is left-footed, worked at his craft. He eventually became a first-team, all-league kicker. He set a school single-season record with eight field goals.
Waxman also was an all-conference baseball player as a first baseman.
He was recruited in football by the likes of Temple and Toledo, but his grades led him to withdraw their offers. Waxman finally got his chance when UMaine kept calling.
He arrived in 2008 and contributed immediately. Waxman’s debut on kickoffs came at Iowa. He later became the place-kicker.
Waxman went 19-for-21 on extra points and hit his only field-goal try.
While his football career was off to a solid start, the adjustment to attending college was difficult.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I was struggling with grades,” Waxman said. “It was almost to the point where I was unable to play.”
Waxman stood his ground. He received support from his parents, Lloyd Waxman and Julie Fagan, and the academic support staff at UMaine.
His parents tried to help him keep things in perspective.
“They always use a saying, life isn’t served on a silver platter, which is so true,” Waxman said. “I’ve earned everything I have. Both of them played very important roles.”
Cosgrove explained that Waxman eventually took advantage of the available help at UMaine and learned how to be more efficient.
“Wax has certainly matured here,” Cosgrove said. “The best thing that I could say is that he fit himself into the system and let the system take him.”
Waxman said during the 2010-11 school year he earned a 3.2 grade point average.
Academics are important element of Waxman’s life. His mother is a professor at Rutgers University and his father is a senior scientist at West Pharmaceuticals.
Waxman said making the transition to life as a college student-athlete has been a gradual process. He also said his girlfriend, former UMaine basketball player Katia Bratishko, has been an inspiration to him.
Waxman has handled a variety of the kicking duties throughout his UMaine career, during which he has converted nine of 11 field goals and 39 of 42 PATs.
He now concentrates on punting and kickoffs. He averaged 38 yards per punt last season and put 22 of them inside the 20-yard line.
In last Saturday’s opener against Bryant, Waxman netted 40 yards per punt and had two downed inside the 5-yard line.
“He’s become a very good punter,” Cosgrove said of the player he calls “Wax the Weapon.” “Those plays are just as important in the game as a lot of the big plays.”
Waxman said he and the other kickers take some good-natured ribbing from their teammates about their less rigorous practice regimen. That doesn’t stop him from throwing his weight around if needed.
He has been in on a handful of tackles in his career.
“It’s a bad thing when the kicker or the punter has to make the tackle, but I have to be able to help my team out,” said Waxman, who stands 6-foot-2, and weighs 210 pounds.
Waxman said he and fellow kickers Brian Harvey and Jeff Ondish have a strong bond. Even though they are competing, they learn a lot from each other.
He was a self-taught kicker and punter until after his sophomore year at UMaine, when he first began taking private lessons from former NFL coach Doug Blevins in Virginia.
“He’s really helped my consistency and success as a kicker and punter,” Waxman said.
Waxman hopes to take his punting to the next level, before putting his UMaine education to work. He is majoring in communications with a minor in kinesiology and physical education.
Waxman also has the distinction of being one of few Jewish athletes at UMaine. He conceded some his teammates are curious about aspects of his religion.
Last year, he was named to the Jewish Sports Review All-American Team.
Waxman believes he has come a long way as a student-athlete during his time in Orono.
“I feel like if you can get by here, really survive here, you can do anything,” he said, adding it helped him “become a man.”