Still Kicking

Mars grad White chasing shot at NFL

January 6, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports

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Mars graduate Matt White, shown here kicking during the Pittsbugh Steelers' mini-camp in 2019, will be handling the kicking and punting duties for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2021.

ADAMS TWP — It's one thing to have a dream. It's quite another to not quit on it.

Matt White's dream is alive and kicking.

A Mars graduate who put together a stellar punting and place-kicking career at Monmouth University, White, 25, signed a contract last January to do both for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

He didn't get a chance to kick this year as the CFL season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Definitely unfortunate, but health and safety have to come first,” White said. “I've been home spending time with friends and family.

“Time flies. Take advantage of it when you can.”

Besides, White is willing to wait. His long-term goal is to kick or punt in the NFL and he plans to do what it takes to get there.

“I was in the Steelers' mini-camp for a look (in 2019),” he said. “The Falcons, Jets and Giants all gave me a tryout as well.”

None of those panned out, but White has gotten his name on the radar in the professional ranks.

Growing up as a soccer player — his father played soccer at Geneva College and started his son in the sport at age 4 — White was approached by Mars football coach Scott Heinauer about being his kicker.

After kicking for the Planets, White went on to Monmouth University, where he punted and kicked for three years. He converted 19 of 29 field goal attempts — including a couple from beyond 40 yards — and 66 of 72 PATs. He averaged 40 yards per punt and put 43 punts inside the 20-yard line.

“I've gotten a lot stronger since then,” White said.

After graduating from Monmouth in 2018, White attended a couple of football kicking camps and was eventually referred to Mike McCabe's One on One Kicking organization in Alabama.

“Matt came to me as a referral from someone who believed he has what it takes to kick in the pros,” McCabe said. “After checking him out, I agreed. So we went to work on it.”

McCabe trains high school and collegiate kickers. There are 12 NFL punters and four place-kickers to come through his organization, including Ray Guy Award winner Ryan Allen (New England punter) and Lou Groza Award winner Cairo Santos (Chiefs, Bears place-kicker).

McCabe has also worked with All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker of the Los Angeles Rams.

“We run a kickers' recruiting showcase down here where every NFL and CFL team comes down to check guys out,” McCabe said. “Matt attracted a lot of interest.”

White said the Minnesota Vikings talked to him following the workout, “but Hamilton offered me a contract on the spot and I took it.”

Since the CFL season was canceled, White has spent time as an assistant coach with the state champion Mars girls soccer team, a personal trainer, working part-time cleaning up a gym and running the Pennsylvania division of One on One Kicking.

The 2021 CFL season begins May 28 and he reports back to the Tiger-Cats in early May.

“I've been hitting the weight room and kicking four days a week,” White said. “I go out to the Mars Athletic Complex and simulate different game situations.

“I kick field goals, do kickoffs, punt for distance, do directional punting ... I want to be prepared for every possible scenario.”

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John Enrietto

John Enrietto

I graduated with a Journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979. I started at the Eagle on August 24, 1997. My awards include 2nd place in feature writing from Ohio Associated Press (while working for the Steubenville Herald-Star), media award from Lernerville Speedway and 3rd place in a Pennsylvania AP contest for story feature.