SE: Better For It

Through the ups and downs, the game of football has taught K-State senior kicker Jack Cantele many things. Through thick and thin, the good times and the bad, he has grown as a person, player and teammate, and looking back, he wouldn’t trade his path in the game for anything. 
In 2013 – Cantele’s sophomore year – he was among the Big 12’s top place kickers after connecting on 11-of-13 field goals. He started his junior campaign on the same high note. However, just three games into the 2014 season, Cantele missed three field goals in the Wildcats’ 20-14 loss to No. 5 Auburn and everything changed.
He was ridiculed on social media by football fans and lost his starting position to then-redshirt freshman Matthew McCrane. 
Those were tough times, and Cantele knew he had two options: he could give up and give in to the critics, or he could move forward and use his situation as a lesson to better himself. 
He chose the latter. 
“As I was laying in bed that night, it was a Thursday game and I had class the next day, I knew I had to go to class. I hadn’t missed a class before and I wasn’t going to start just because of that,” Cantele explained. “I thought about the story I wanted to tell. I thought (last) season was the end of my story, so I wanted to do whatever I could to end it on a positive note. The story I wanted to be able to tell was that I grew from my time at K-State for the better.”
Though he may have thought that Auburn game was the end of his football story at K-State, it was far from it.
With McCrane sidelined, Cantele pushed the past aside and went a perfect 4-of-4 in field goals in last week's 39-33 win over Louisiana Tech, including a pressure-packed 44-yarder to tie the game in the second overtime. His performance earned him Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors in addition to being named a Lou Groza Award “Star of the Week.”  
“I’m awful proud of Jack. It’s so hard when you’re doing as well as he was doing up to that point in time last year to lose your position and not be able to get back on the field,” said K-State head coach Bill Snyder. “That’s not an easy circumstance to deal with, but life deals us those issues from time to time and I think he’s handled it great. He still attempted to provide leadership, and he remained very competitive with Matt. He did everything the right way. He never pouted or did anything other than work hard and try to be the best teammate that he could possible be. Then, when the opportunity arose for him, he was prepared.”
Because of his never-give-up attitude – Goal No. 10 on Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success – Cantele rose to the occasion without missing a beat and has been an inspiration for his entire team.
“I have a ton of respect for Jack,” said junior quarterback Joe Hubener. “He did a tremendous job his sophomore year, then his junior year he had a tough game against Auburn, but he didn’t let it bother him. He kept doing his thing, and even though he wasn’t getting reps last year after that game, he was still working hard in practice to better himself and it shows this year. He’s come out and played incredibly well.”
He proved he was capable of kicking well under pressure last weekend, and though he was nationally recognized for his success on the field, he isn’t satisfied. He’s put the game and the weekly awards behind him and is keeping his mind focused on the next task at hand because he knows all too well how quickly accolades can be forgotten. 
“Going through what I’ve gone through and knowing how things can change so quickly, those are just distractions right now,” explained Cantele of his awards. “It’s not something I think about. My past experiences are going to allow me to block those out and worry about my next game, because if I don’t get better today, tomorrow and the next day, it could all just repeat itself. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m not going to let the awards get to my head.”
He’s understanding, hard working and has come a long way since that night he laid in bed wondering whether or not to go to class the next day. During this past year, Cantele realized life is bigger than football, and he has used his experience to grow in all areas – on and off the field – of his life. 
“My problems, relatively speaking, aren’t that big,” said Cantele. “There are a lot worse things than missing kicks in an important football game. Those are just lessons you learn… When you put it all in perspective, it makes it a lot easier. 
“At the end of the day, it was a blessing, that’s what it is for me,” he continued. “Fans may say it’s selfish of me to think of it that way, but I can’t change it now, so I might as well make the best of it. It really has been a blessing in my life and it’s something that, in hindsight, I’m partially glad it happened. I still wish I would have made the kicks, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s benefitted me.”

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart, or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.