UCLA kicker J.J. Molson is an eighth-generation descendant of John Molson, who in 1786 founded North America’s oldest brewery. Today the Molson Coors Brewing Company is the world’s seventh largest brewer by volume.
It’s more than a cool historical tidbit that Molson can trot out; he also leverages his lineage in lager whenever he lines up for a field goal behind holder Wade Lees.
“It’s a little funny because I have a little thing with Wade that every time he gives me a good hold or we make a big kick, I’ll give him a six-pack of Molson,” Molson said Tuesday with a laugh before providing some sobering clarification. “No, no, no, I’m just joking. It’s just kind of a little incentive for him.”
Both Molson and Lees are of legal drinking age. Molson is 22 and Lees, a graduate transfer punter from Maryland who once played Australian rules football, is one of the oldest players in college football at 31.
Don’t expect to see either of the Bruins specialists hanging out in the bar with their coaches.
“After I graduate maybe,” Molson said. “But now, we’re locked into the season.”
Molson could be on the verge of a special season. The senior will enter it with the seventh most made field goals (43) in UCLA history, and 11th on the school’s career scoring list (240 points).
Maybe nobody is better versed in the school’s legacy at his position.
“Oh no, for sure,” Molson said. “Kai Forbath, John Lee, Chris Sailer, all those guys before me.”
Molson’s name might be worthy of that list in a couple of months. He made a career-long 50-yard field goal against Colorado last season and said he’s added 10 yards to his range, routinely making kicks from up to 65 yards in practice.
He’s also working with a new holder. Lees represents the fifth holder Molson has worked with in college after cycling through Mike Fafaul and Adam Searl as a freshman, Stefan Flintoft as a sophomore and Matt Lynch as a junior. Molson shifted to Lees this season so that the specialists could work together throughout practice, while Lynch focused on his transition from quarterback to tight end.
The change appears to have had a calming effect on Molson.
“Wade’s a chill dude from Australia,” Molson said, “so it kind of eases me down before I kick.”
Last season was filled with frustrating moments for Molson, even though Pac-12 coaches made him an all-conference honorable mention after he converted 14 of 19 field goals. He twice had long kicks fall just short after teammates’ penalties lengthened the distance on the attempts.
“Last year was kind of cool to see how I would react in those situations,” Molson said, “and even though I didn’t make all of those, I think that I was pretty calm in those situations and I trusted my stroke.”
Molson also is trusting his voice. While kickers often stick to themselves, Molson has asserted himself among teammates in a bid to reinforce the team’s core values.
“One of the things I wanted to focus on this year,” Molson said, “was pushing our culture and setting the standard and … kind of lead by example and show the young guys, like OK, this is what the older guys are doing.”
Of course, the younger players can’t join Molson in some of his more leisurely pursuits until they’re 21.
Running back Kazmeir Allen wore a yellow jersey Tuesday to signal he was recovering from an unspecified injury. He joined running back Joshua Kelley and receivers Theo Howard, Dymond Lee and Michael Ezeike, who also were limited in their practice participation.
Offensive linemen Alec Anderson and Sam Marrazzo, also recovering from injuries, were not spotted on the field during the portion of practice open to the media. Anderson later wrote on Instagram that he had undergone surgery and posted a picture of his right leg bandaged.
Freshman Sean Rhyan lined up at left tackle next to the starting linemen during some drills, potentially putting him in position to play should Anderson’s injury linger until the Aug. 29 season opener against Cincinnati.
Long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker, on sporting a bald head despite being a decade younger than Lees: “Don’t get it wrong, I’m the old guy of the group. I have the best dad hair.”