Jack Soslow had no illusions of being a football hero before he arrived at the University of Pennsylvania.
Yes, the Bryn Mawr resident was always a decent athlete, good enough to win a silver medal in squash at the 2013 Maccabiah Games. He also played center fullback in soccer, meaning he often got to mix it up going for the ball.
“I’d done it for fun but nothing serious,” he said. “Little did I know it at the time, but a bunch of my friends took me out to the field to see how well I’d kick. They saw me hit a few and said, ‘Dude, you’re really good.’ I was a little skeptical but then they put me out there for a 55-yard field goal. I joked, ‘If I make this kick, I’ll play football.’”
Shades of Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott, Soslow split the uprights and now, less than three years later, he’s Penn’s kicker. While the 3-4 Quakers have struggled, dropping their last three games after holding fourth-quarter leads, Soslow’s been pretty reliable.
Despite missing a 48-yard attempt in Penn’s 24-19 loss to Yale on Oct. 21, in which he made field goals of 34 and 44 yards, the junior statistics and business analytics major is now six for eight this year. Besides that, he’s nailed all 26 extra points.
Not bad for someone who had no idea what he was doing when he started out.
“He was a kickoff guy, but then we had issues with our field goal kicking last year, and he got a chance,” Penn Coach Ray Priore said. “Jack’s worked hard in the off-season. The biggest change is his mental approach to kicking. He was a soccer player before and had only kicked a game or two. The nice part about kids like that is they’re fresh and don’t have bad habits. But he’s blessed with a big leg.”
Being a kicker can be a lonely, thankless job. Depending upon the circumstances, you’re either the hero or the goat. There’s little in between.
At the same time, they can be just as indispensable as the quarterback. That’s why Soslow, whose family belongs to Main Line Reform Temple, where he became a Bar Mitzvah, is out there every Saturday, even though it’s Shabbat.
In fact, he recently played on Yom Kippur, when his second field goal seemed like it might be the game winner until Dartmouth scored on the game’s final play.
“I talked to my family about it, and they were comfortable with me going out and playing the night of the game as long as I came home afterward to be with them,” the 20-year-old Soslow said. “It was a family decision. I have a commitment to my faith, but also to my team.”
His family was in full support.
“He didn’t grow up in a house where we went to services on Friday night or [for] Kol Nidre,” said his mother, Joanne. “He felt he’s a part of the team and didn’t want to let the team down.”
Soslow said he attends Jewish activities on campus once in a while and lives in an off-campus apartment with three of his former squash buddies, one of whom is Jewish. But when he steps onto the field, none of that matters.
“Out on the field everyone is treated the same way,” Soslow said. “Obviously, faith is an important part of a lot of people’s lives, me included. But on the field, everyone has common goals. I’ve never once been looked at differently because of my faith.”