In 2012, Matt Gay was scoring 18 goals as part of an Orem High boys soccer team that made it to the state semifinals.
His next stop was at UVU, where he was a talented soccer player for the Wolverines.
But this is a guy who kicked a 54-yard field goal in a high school football game and once made one from 72 yards in practice for the Tigers, so there was always the thought that he would go back to the gridiron.
Eventually Gay joined the Utah football team and had a spectacular career, including winning the 2017 Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in college football.
Now Gay is taking the next step as he heads to the NFL. He was drafted Saturday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round of the NFL draft (145th pick overall).
Gay was the fourth Ute player selected in the NFL draft and the second specialist as punter Mitch Wishnowsky was taken in the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers.
The draft analysis on NFL.com written by Mark Dulgerian emphasized that Tampa Bay was addressing a specific need with the selection.
“The Bucs were abysmal in the kicking game last season, hitting on just 74.1% of their field goals (4th-worst in the NFL),” Dulgerian said. “Gay has a booming leg and should help the points per game column for an offense that ranked 3rd in total yards.”
During the post-draft press conference, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said Matt Gay is a big guy with a big leg who can kick it far and accurate both in Utah and at sea level. He said he likes Gay’s accuracy from distance beyond 40 yards and said the Bucs have a coach with an emphasis on kickers and finds them very important.
“We’ve exhausted everything we can to try to find a kicker,” Licht said. “We’ll continue to, like every other position. We’ve drafted one, we’ve signed free agents, UFAs, street free agents, gone to Denmark. We like this guy.”
In the seventh round (236th pick overall), former Westlake quarterback John Ursua, who played receiver at Hawaii and chose to declare for the NFL draft after his junior season, was selected by the Seattle Seahawks.
Dion Caputi tweeted from his @NFLDraftUpdate Twitter account that Ursua helped himself by putting up some good measurables during the pre-draft process.
“Small, rocked out slot profile with great athleticism,” Caputi tweeted. “He had a really good Pro Day that probably got his name called before the end of the draft.”
Ursua told radio station 710 ESPN Seattle after being selected that he was fielding calls about signing as an undrafted free agent until Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called and said they were on the clock and picking him. He said it meant a lot that Seattle would trade a pick next year to come and get him.
Other Utah County players who had appeared to at one point be locks to be drafted ended up going all three days without hearing their names called.
Former five-star recruit Porter Gustin from Salem Hills and former Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen (who played linebacker at Utah) were both hampered by injuries, which might have made NFL teams hesitate to select them.
Hansen was the first local player to accept a free agent contract, signing with the New Orleans Saints shortly after the conclusion of the draft.
Timpview’s Dax Raymond, who had a solid career at tight end for Utah State, also had to wait to sign a free agent deal, signing with the Chicago Bears.
As of press deadline, Gustin had yet to sign a contract.