Super Bowl: Matt Gay’s journey to the Super Bowl full of twists and turns

In another life, Matt Gay played as a forward for the Utah Valley University football team. On Sunday, he will play the Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams.

You thought Eric Weddle’s story was a weird turn of events, but Gay, a 6-foot, 230-pound placekicker from Orem, Utah, had an equally weird trip to America’s biggest stage.

Gay played a big role in getting the Rams to the Super Bowl on Sunday. In the divisional round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he missed a 47-yard attempt, but later came back to kick the game-winning field goal when time expired. In the conference championship game against the 49ers, he also missed a long 54-yard attempt, but came back again for late-game heroism, kicking 40 yards out and then a goal. on the winning field from 30 yards with 1:46 remaining.

UVU’s Matt Gay kicks on goal as Utah Valley takes on UMass in the team’s inaugural game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, at Orem. On Sunday in Los Angeles, Gay will have the chance to help the Rams beat the Bengals in the 2022 Super Bowl.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

This sets up a matchup with his Cincinnati Bengals counterpart, Evan McPherson, who has not only lived up to his “Money Mac” nickname, but is looking to make it a legal trademark. He’s made 40 of 45 field goal attempts this season. He’s made his 12 playoff attempts — including two winners — and needs just three more to break the NFL playoff record set by the great Adam Vinatieri.

Kicker isn’t a sexy position, but field goals played a big role in the Super Bowl; four of them were decided by last-second baskets one way or another.

In 1971, Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard field goal with five seconds left in the game gave the Baltimore Colts a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The 1991 Super Bowl was the scene of the most infamous field goal attempt of all time; Trailing 20-19 with eight seconds remaining, Buffalo’s Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard attempt one yard right of the goal post to give the New York Giants the win. In 2002, Vinatieri threw a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the New England Patriots a 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams. In 2004, Vinatieri threw a 41-yard field goal with nine seconds left to give the Patriots a 32-29 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Will the big game on Sunday come down to another placement on the pitch? Five of the 12 playoff games this year have been decided by three runs – one field goal.

Gay’s road to the Super Bowl had more twists and turns than the road to Hana. He played 33 games for the UVU football team from 2014 to 2016, tallying eight goals and five assists. He was scoring game-winning goals of a different kind in that era – one against San Jose State, another against San Jose State, one against Gonzaga and one against UC Riverside.

He was selected as Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week after scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Gonzaga. He led UVU in scoring as a freshman in 2014 with seven goals and 18 points. Prior to that, he was a two-time all-state first-team football player for Orem High and set a school record for scoring. He also served as a kicker for the Orem High football team. According to MaxPreps, during his senior season he made six of 13 field goal attempts, including one from 55 yards, and made 28 of 35 PAT attempts. His numbers didn’t bode well for a future in the NFL.

After playing two years of football at UVU, Gay pursued a return to football. He tried out at BYU and Snow College, but it wasn’t until he attended a camp at the University of Utah that he was offered a roster spot as an extra. He won the starting job at Utah in 2017 and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker after making 30 field goals (on 34 attempts) and his 40 PAT kicks. He nearly repeated the performance a year later, making 26 of 31 field goal attempts and all 45 of his PAT tries.

Utah Utes kicker Matt Gay, winner of the Lou Groza Most Outstanding Kicker Award, stands with the trophy during the “College Football Awards Show” at the College Football Hall of Fame, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Atlanta. On Sunday, Gay will look to help the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl.
John Amis, Associated Press

Drafted in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, he had an uneven rookie year. He missed eight of 35 field goal attempts, but he also set team rookie records for longest field goal (58 yards), most field goals (27) and most points ( 124). The Bucs cut him before the start of the 2020 season — a decision they may now regret — and he ended up on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.

At the time, the Rams were going through kickers like office temps after letting reliable Greg Zuerlein go via free agency. They waived kicker Sam Sloman, their seventh-round pick, after seven games, having seen him miss three field goals and three extra kicks. They turned to Kai Forbath but he lost his job after two games after sniffing out a few kicks.

In Week 11 of the 2020 season, the Rams signed Gay off the Colts’ practice squad, and he made 14 of 16 field goal attempts in seven games, including a winner against the Colts. Bucs, his former team. This season, he’s made 39 of 43 field goal attempts, including the playoffs. Once again, he beat his former team, the Bucs, by scoring three field goals in the divisional playoffs, one of which was the winner.

Utah Utes place kicker Matt Gay (97) lines up a field goal during the game against Stanford in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 7, 2017.

Utah Utes kicker Matt Gay lines up a field goal during the game against Stanford in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 7, 2017.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“Man, he’s been Mr. Automatic lately,” head coach Sean McVay said at a press conference earlier this month. “He did a great job and it looks like we’ve found our guy for a long time, definitely for the future.”

“I’m excited for him,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who worked closely with the Gay and Utes special teams. “It’s great to see him in a good place now. He was still developing as a kicker (in his early years in the NFL). He was a footballer his whole life.”

On Sunday, Gay, the guy who was out of football just five years ago, will take on the kicking duties in the biggest game of his life.

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