There is a long-standing belief that kickers can be found anywhere. And if Matt Gay turns out to be the next breakthrough leg to emerge from relative obscurity, his back-story is one that could eventually inspire the next batch of upstart kickers.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier offers up a group of players he believes are the best-kept secrets of the 2019 NFL Draft. Among them is Gay, the Utah place-kicker who is arrived at the top of his position group in an unorthodox way.
“I’m self-taught,” Gay said. “I just went to my high school and figured out what worked and what didn’t.”
Gay didn’t jump straight from high school into the college ranks. A once-aspiring soccer player tore his ACL, MCL, and suffered a damaged meniscus during a football practice as a senior. From there, he took a year off, joined Utah Valley University and played two years playing soccer before walking on at Utah and beating out Chayden Johnston for the kicking job in 2017. After that, Gay grew into a money kicker for the Utes. He earned All-American honors and won the Lou Groza Award in 2017 for being college football’s best kicker. That he has made eight field goals of 50+ yards jumps off the page as a Bears fan looking at college kickers, especially when you remember how much stock GM Ryan Pace has put into leg strength during his kicking search.
With that in mind, Gay saying he feels “comfortable” from 60, 65 yards away is something that could sway the Bears’ decision-making come draft weekend.
Chicago met with Gay (and all the other kickers) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but also showed up at his pro day at Utah. Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor’s presence at Utah’s pro day (where he also reportedly scouted Utah’s punter Mitch Wishnowsky) was worth noting. Also worth sharing is a nugget that Gay prepared for the NFL Draft by attending a clinic held by John Carney, who happens to be the fifth-highest scorer in NFL history. If you’ll recall, Redford Jones worked with Carney before signing with the Bears earlier in the offseason. All of this is worth mentioning because Carney and Bears GM Ryan Pace crossed paths in New Orleans during two different stops at the end of Carney’s career from 2002-06 and 2009-10.
Even after signing Jones, Chris Blewitt, and Elliott Fry to free agent deals, the Bears are *STILL* in the market for a place-kicker to replace Cody Parkey. And while it’s been a long, winding road for Gay, it has led him to the doorstep of the NFL and could put him in the mix to be the Bears’ next place-kicker