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99 Jerseys in 99 Days: Day 97

Counting down the 99 days left until kickoff by finding the top ballers for each jersey number in the PAC-12 era.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 06 Utah at Stanford Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Remember that time when a soccer player living under BYU’s daunting shadow became one of the greatest kickers in Utes history? Of course you do, because it wasn’t that long ago, and the dude also just became a Super Bowl champion earlier this year. And in case you don’t know who I’m referring to, it's my personal favorite #97...

Matt Gay

NCAA Football: Utah at Stanford Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing a record-setting kicker like “Automatic” Andy Phillips wasn’t supposed to be an easy task. He had drilled 84% of all field goal attempts, with a whopping 84 successful tries over four years, but Gay filled Phillips’ shoes better than anyone could have expected, ending his collegiate career with an 86.2% success rate, shattering the single-season field goal record in his debut season with 30 in 2017, and followed up his final season with a six field goal performance against Oregon to set another school record. Gay’s rise to the top is one for the ages.

Having started his college athletics career as a soccer player for Utah Valley University, Gay returned from a church mission and became frustrated by his lack of playing time and was directed to consider learning how to kick a football. Disheartened by his diminishing passion for soccer, Gay committed himself to training and quickly landed a spot as a walk-on during Utah’s 2017 spring camp. Gay eventually landed the starting job and drilled 14 straight field goals, and by the end of the 2017 season, he was a consensus All-American, Lou Groza and Vlade award winner, and heralded as the greatest distance kicker in school history after sending five kicks through the uprights from 50 yards or deeper.

In his second and final season with Utah, Gay’s productuion barely slipped, hitting 26 field goals including a career-long 55 yarder against Oregon, in a game where he became the school’s single-game leader in most field goals made. It was during this 2018 season that Gay became a much more proficient two-way kicker, handling kickoff duties as well, handling all 82 on the season for the Utes, with an average length of 63.5 yards.

Following two successful seasons with Utah, Gay was drafted 145th overall in the 2019 NFL draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but was cut the following season. Gay’s professional career looked to be over after the Colts picked him up and assigned him to the practice squad before also parting ways with the talented kicker. Eventually, the former Orem High School standout soccer player found his way to the Los Angeles Rams, singing with the team in mid-November of 2020. The following season, Gay was the full-time starting kicker for the Rams, making 32 of 34 attempts on the season, including a dramatic game-winning kick that sent LA to the NFC Championship game in the closing seconds. A few short weeks later, Matt added “Super Bowl Champ” to his long list of accomplishments, beating the Cincinnati Bengals in just his second full season in the NFL.