September 14, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
What do you think is more intimidating, the silence looming overhead as you stare down an eight-foot putt or the pressure of hitting a field goal in front of 50,000-plus fans screaming for you to succeed?
For K-State sophomore place kicker Jack Cantele, he said he just isn't sure - yet.
While the former Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School golf star took his share of intimidating, tricky shots on the golf course growing up, this K-State football starter has yet to feel the pressure of taking a game-winning kick.
"I'll let you know when I get the opportunity to kick a game-winner," Cantele laughed when asked which he considered more intimidating. "You don't golf in front of 50,000 people in the stands and a million of viewers on the camera so, I guess it'd probably be kicking, but looking back there was a lot of nerve wrecking shots in golf."
As a matter of fact, Cantele was one decision away from playing college golf, instead of football, as the Wichita native was recruited to numerous Big 12 schools for the sport during his high school days where he earned all-state honors his junior and senior years.
"In one tournament I shot a 5-under 67 my senior year of high school," Cantele said as he thought back to what he remembered as his best round. "It was on April 20th, my parents anniversary, and I'll always remember that."
His 5-under par, which was shot at Auburn Hills Golf Course in Wichita, was the second-lowest round in Kansas high school golf history.
So, why football? Why did a kid with such a promising collegiate golf future walk-on with K-State's football program where he is now playing in just about the exact opposite atmosphere than that of golf?
"Golf was something I grew up doing my whole life, and I was good at it," Cantele began, "but 12-hours a day during the summer until I got tired, that's how I got burnt out.
"With kicking, I had just started out and I had success in high school. People said it was a way that I could get on a Division I college team. I love kicking. I love being around football and, obviously, with my brother being here it made the decision pretty easy."
Cantele's older brother, Anthony, kicked for K-State from 2010-12. Finishing the season as the No. 2 kicker in the Big 12 last year, Anthony went 19-for-23 in field goals and scored a total of 121 points.
While he's been playing behind his brother the first two seasons of his collegiate career, he said it's not something he minds, in fact, it's something the two enjoy.
"I've been compared to Anthony since as long as I can remember," Cantele said. "It was the same way in high school. He was the starting kicker and I followed him my sophomore through senior year, but I mean, we have a great relationship so it's fun for us."
So far this season, Cantele has attempted and made two field goals (both against Louisiana for 29 and 27 yards) and is averaging 60 yards per kickoff after the first two games of the season.
"I thought it was good for Jack to hit a couple of field goals," head coach Bill Snyder said about Cantele's performance against Louisiana last Saturday. "He needs to continue to get better and improve and he understands that. Consistency is a key element and we just have to keep doing it."
While he began his K-State football career as a walk-on, Cantele is now on scholarship after two years of hard work with the program, and although he's started out this season as the team's starting kicker, he knows it is a position that if he slacks, he's out.
"You can't take it for granted, ever," Cantele said about his position, "even those short ones. I watched my brother lose his job missing the same exact kick that I made the other day. He missed that against Missouri State his sophomore year and I learned from him and made sure that I wasn't going to do that.
"I'm a perfectionist. I'd like to see every single kick down the middle. I'm fairly pleased with the way I'm kicking, but there's a lot of room for improvement, and, honestly, I'm never going to be satisfied."
While he may have learned more about the skill set behind kicking the football from his older brother, staying calm and focused while kicking in front of 50,000 is something that Cantele credits to the sport he first loved - golf.
"I've been a golfer my whole life," he explained with a smile. "Keeping your wits and keeping your cool and not letting it get the best of you is something I've kind of had to learn on my own."
Cantele's next opportunity to keep his cool under pressure comes tonight at 6 p.m. as K-State takes UMass in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will be aired on K-StateHD.TV along with pre- and postgame specials, exclusive interviews and Snyder's postgame press conference.