As is typical of so many student-section spectators, Matthew Wyman watched the Kansas University football team compete and told himself he could do better.
Unlike the rest of them, Wyman actually backed up his claim by joining the team in his second year in school and winning a game with a 52-yard field goal as time expired, delivering Kansas a 13-10 victory vs. Louisiana Tech, one of three victories for the 2013 Jayhawks.
That was a bright spot, but over the rest of that season and last season, Wyman never convinced the coaching staff it could call off its search for a reliable field-goal kicker. He was unable to find a consistent groove, as illustrated by his two-year extra-point inaccuracy. He made just 38 of 43 freebies and made 14 of 25 field goals.
An honorable mention all-state soccer player at Andover High in Michigan, Wyman played just five games for the football team. It just recently hit him that football is a year-round sport.
Wyman said other than kicking with his father during the summer, he had not worked with anyone on improving. That changed this summer. When in Michigan, Wyman received lessons from Jason Hanson, who holds the NFL record (327) for most games played with the same team, the Detroit Lions.
“He’s really tuned me up,” Wyman said. “He adjusted my steps a little bit. I always struggle on the hashes, so we really worked on making sure that I have a straight line and finishing straight through the ball. I’m trying to drive my leg up and have a nice follow-through. It’s not about how far it goes. It’s about consistency.”
Kansas first-year coach David Beaty speaks with reporters Aug. 20, 2015, about which players are impressing these days at preseason practices. It's a long list, that includes defensive end Damani Mosby, safety Fish Smithson, wide receivers Steven Sims Jr. and Joshua Stanford and many others.
When in Lawrence, Wyman received kicking tutoring from Kansas City-based Brooks Rossman, former Kansas State kicker.
“I’ve worked so much over the summer that I didn’t do the past two summers that when I go out there now I know that I’m capable of doing this, and my confidence has skyrocketed,” Wyman said. “I used to be so nervous I’d be like, ‘I need to make this kick.’ This is the first summer I really put my heart into it and really want to be good and own my job. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
Wyman has been on scholarship since the second semester of last school year, a development he called “a nice surprise.” He praised KU special-teams coach Gary Hyman for staying on top of him to make sure he made the most of using the summer to improve.
Hyman said that Wyman has become proficient at putting his kickoffs into the right “box,” which will help the coverage team that performed poorly a year ago.
Nick Bartolotta of St. Louis, a transfer from College of DuPage, is competing with Wyman and might have the edge on extra points. Wyman is the better option for long field goals, so the remaining issue likely is which kicker will handle the shorter field goals.
When Wyman talks about what has made him inconsistent in the past, he sounds like a golfer burdened by trying to crush every drive.
“I’ve always had a problem with trying to kill this ball and make it go as far as it can, and that doesn’t really matter,” Wyman said. “For kickoffs, that’s really helped me, but for field goals, (Hanson) told me, ‘Kick 80 percent, and keep your head on the ball, instead of going 100 percent and being out of control.’”
As holder, reserve quarterback T.J. Millweard’s job isn’t over once the ball has been kicked.
“They have T.J. tell me if it goes in (between the uprights) or doesn’t go in,” Wyman said, “and have me look at the ball the entire time and just follow on the ground in a straight line so I’m not looking up at all. They’ve really pounded that into me every day, and it’s helped with my consistency.”
Only consistent production in practice can convince head coach David Beaty to send Wyman onto the field when going for it on fourth down is tempting. If Wyman shows more consistency than in past seasons, his opportunities will increase.