Note: The following appears in the North Carolina football gameday program.
Jonathan Weitz was a walk-on placekicker for the Tiger football program from 2019-22 before deciding to hang up his cleats and take on life post-football. However, Weitz came out of retirement on Sept. 23 to make his first career start in his first game of the season when Clemson faced No. 3 Florida State.
Here is how the story goes.
Just weeks away from starting his job in New York City, he received a text from Head Coach Dabo Swinney.
“I was at my buddy’s house sitting on his couch watching ‘Step Brothers.’ I got a text and said, ‘I can’t believe this…Coach Swinney just texted me asking if I had any eligibility left.’
I texted him back, saying I would love to talk about it if he was serious. I was really excited about the opportunity, and when I talked to him, he said, ‘Weitz, if you go out there and kick some field goals and you feel pretty good, we can get you out on the field on Monday and see if you can still do it.’ I went out there and kicked before we talked again that night about where the team was at and if I could come in and get the job done.”
Weitz grew up a Tiger fan, explaining that he has had orange in his blood forever. So there was little hesitation when he decided to pick his football career back up.
“A lot of people think there would be some hesitation, but there wasn’t. I felt super confident during my entire four-hour drive to Clemson. My parents told me to trust my gut, and my gut told me I was making the right decision. I was excited to be back in Clemson and be back with all my buddies.”
Being away from football for an extended amount of time meant that Weitz would have to quickly adjust to his new role as the starting placekicker.
“Kicking is a weird movement. It is swinging your leg at 100 percent time after time. If you haven’t done it for a while, it is pretty grueling on your body.
“For the first couple of weeks, I was doing a ton of treatment, trying to keep my body healthy and my leg protected from getting hurt. After the bye week, I got in a good groove of my natural swing and how it was during my senior year.”
Not only has he had to get back into the physical aspects, he has also had to adjust as a teammate and veteran player.
“I stepped into a leadership role last year because I wanted to contribute to the team however I could. Getting back, there was obviously some awkwardness at the beginning, but after a week or two, it was natural being back in that role, leading the room with Aidan (Swanson). My personality has always been very vocal, and I try to lead whenever I can.”
There was a lot of noise around Weitz returning to Death Valley, creating a surreal experience as he stepped into the stadium for the first time since 2022.
“There was a lot of talk around it being my first game back, so I tried to put social media down for that week and focus on getting back kicking with the team. I remember looking down from the top of the Hill, and it was like a dream come true. Once I got down the Hill and started kicking in the net, I felt comfortable and didn’t have any nerves.”
With 2023 being his final year, he is eager to finish out the season strong before he returns to the “real world.”
“I am going to pick up right where I thought I would be. I have a job lined up with Ally Financial starting in January. I interned with them and that whole team this past summer, and they were all great. So, I am going to be moving up to New York in January to start work.”