Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bucs’s newest kicker is a man on a mission

Tampa Bay rookie Matt Gay’s foot had a helping hand along the way.
Matt Gay (9) runs drills during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Mini-Camp on May 11, 2019 at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Florida. (MONICA HERNDON   |   Times)
Matt Gay (9) runs drills during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Mini-Camp on May 11, 2019 at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Florida. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published May 11, 2019

TAMPA — Being drafted by the Bucs to place kick immediately marks you, like with a pentagram, although this mark looks a lot like Roberto Aguayo’s face.

All Bucs kickers are but the children of Aguayo, or at least grandchildren of Bill Capece. They’re a miss or two away from kaput. Bucs kickers come to Tampa Bay with the toe tags already on them. It’s just a matter of filling in the details. History abounds, and it carries an axe.

“I’m well aware of it,” Matt Gay said with a smile.

Gay knows the drill since Bucs GM Jason Licht took another swing at the pinata and picked Gay in the fifth round, not to be confused with 2016, when Licht chose Aguayo in the second round. The Bucs are still paying for that.

Related: RELATED: Even the kicker was surprised Bucs took him in fifth round of NFL draft

“It’s all about service,” Gay said on the second day of Bucs rookie minicamp.

He was talking about his Mormon faith, not kicking for the Bucs. But he prays before he kicks. Well, it’s about time somebody tried that.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Gay, Janikowski-sized, doesn’t look like a kicker. (Hey, kid, ever tried playing linebacker?) Nor is he your typical NFL rookie. He is 25, married (his wife, Milli, is from the U.K. but lived in Tampa for two years) with a baby boy on the way in September. Gay says he has a rough side, which he comes by honestly, having grown up the youngest of eight children in Orem, Utah, near Provo.

“I have five older brothers. I was always getting beat up at home,” Gay said. “It gives you an edge, that you can’t back down.”

Related: RELATED: It's not smart to draft kickers, but the Buccaneers haven't gotten the message

There is more to Gay than just his nuclear-powered right foot, which won him the Lou Groza Award in 2017 as college football’s best kicker. It was Gay’s first year of college kicking after leaving soccer and Utah Valley University. Before the Groza award, Gay didn’t know who Groza was.

But he knew that his foot had helping hands all along the way, especially after he made the transition from college soccer to football. One of his chief cheerleaders was his friend Parker Overly, a high school friend from Orem. They played football together at Orem High, where Overly played quarterback and tight end, and lived in the same LDS ward. It was Overly as much as anyone who challenged Gay to pursue football, which Gay turned into an NFL dream and reality.

“(Parker) was one of the guys who kept nagging me when I was playing soccer,” Gay said. “He’d tell me, ‘When are you going to put this aside and start kicking?’ He knew I had a chance. He knew, he just knew.”

So Gay transferred to Utah. He went and won the Groza. And now here he is. He writes the initials “P.O.” in black marker on white tape that he wears on his left arm each time he steps onto the football field. That’s for Patrick.

Gay has made it to an NFL camp. His friend did not. In April 2017, Overly died when the vehicle he was driving was in a head-on collision with a semi-truck.

“He’s just a big part of why I’m doing this,” Gay said. “He’s probably helped me push a few in, for sure.”

Related: RELATED: Bucs draft Utah kicker Matt Gay in 5th round

Gay has served an LDS mission in Houston and is never really off-mission.

“I try to talk about Jesus Christ and just spread the word,” he said. “Take football out of it. He’s given me redemption. He’s given me life. He’s the sole purpose we’re here.”

Gay’s other purpose, at the moment, is to make kicks and win a job over his chief competition, Bucs kicker Cairo Santos.

“To be here, you have to have confidence that you belong here, that you should be here,” Gay said. “Every day is a gift. Every day is a blessing. But Sunday afternoons, yeah, they’re important. But you lose someone along the way and it puts things in perspective. I have that, I think.”

A wonderful, uplifting story.

Now: Can the dude kick?

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. In this Oct. 23, 2016, file photo, a New Orleans Saints helmet rests on the playing field before an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo. The Saints are going to court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives doing public relations damage control for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) [JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP]
    Saints attorneys disputed any suggestion that the team helped the church cover up crimes, calling such claims “outrageous.”
  2. NFC quarterback Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints, throws a pass during a practice for the NFL Pro Bowl football game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    The Bucs could be impacted as they decide on Jameis Winston, with Brees’ New Orleans backup Teddy Bridgewater as a possible option.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (94) celebrates a sack of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. [REED HOFFMANN  |  AP]
    John Romano | The Bucs played well enough on both sides of the ball to be one of the top 10 teams in the NFL. One stat kept them from possibly being the Chiefs or 49ers.
  4. Former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm could be an interesting option for the Bucs to consider, if they want to move on from Jameis Winston. [BILL FEIG  |  AP]
    As the Bucs possibly look into moving on from Jameis Winston, here’s what fans should know about this draft’s quarterback class.
  5. In this Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, then-Patriots receiver Antonio Brown roams the sideline during the first half against the Dolphins in Miami Gardens. Law enforcement authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Brown, who along with his trainer has been accused of attacking a man near Brown's South Florida home in Hollywood. [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    The troubled NFL wide receiver is accused, along with his trainer, of attacking a man in South Florida.
  6. NFC linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hands Sean Silverthorn, of Largo, Fla., two tickets to the Super Bowl after a practice for the NFL Pro Bowl football game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    At this time last year, he was a player without a team. Now, having earned his place among the game’s greats, the Buccaneers outside linebacker is making dreams come true for him, his family and a...
  7. In this Feb. 7, 2012 file photo New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the team's NFL football Super Bowl parade in New York. Manning, who led the Giants to two Super Bowls in a 16-year career that saw him set almost every team passing record, has retired. The Giants said Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 that Manning would formally announce his retirement on Friday. [JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP]
    The two-time Super Bowl MVP is calling it quits after 16 seasons, all with the same team.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, center, talks with kids while playing games during the fourth annual Dream Forever Foundation Football Camp held last June in Tampa. [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Winston, who played at Florida State, is from Alabama, where the private historically black liberal arts college is located.
  9. In this Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) on the sidelines,during the first half at an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    The wide receiver’s trainer was arrested following accusations that he and Brown attacked another man near Brown’s home, authorities said.
  10. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) calls a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  AP]
    A report from the NFL Network says there’s increasing chatter about Rivers and the Bucs at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement