Matt Ammendola has had a mixed bag of success while at Oklahoma State.
The senior place kicker came onto the scene as a redshirt freshman, taking over kickoff duties and attempting – and making – just one field goal, a 53-yarder in a non-conference game. The following year, he had to fill the shoes of the program’s all-time points leader – Ben Grogan.
But Ammendola’s tenure has been just as tumultuous as Grogan’s – who may have the scoring record, but his 74.7 field goal percentage ranks sixth in Oklahoma State history (which is currently behind Ammendola, who has made 76.4 percent).
His first year as the full-time place kicker went pretty well. He knocked through 23 of 29 field goal attempts (79.3 percent) – with the misses stretched throughout the season aside from two misses against Texas Tech – and matched his career-long with another 53-yard field goal against South Alabama. He was also perfect on point after touchdown tries, banging through all 70 attempts.
But things got shaky last season.
The kicker from Landsale, Pennsylvania, was 16 of 22 on field goals (72.7 percent) – which included missing five over a three-game span against Texas, Baylor (which was a windy game) and Oklahoma. He also missed a pair of PATs – one coming in a tight Bedlam game in Norman.
“As a player, everybody is going to have adversity – they’re going to have their ups and downs,” Ammendola said. “Going into the last year, just looking at what I can bring to the table.”
With just one year remaining in his college career, Ammendola elected to go back home for the summer and work with a specialist. Somebody who has quite the track record.
He got to work with somebody he had watched make a living kicking at the pro level not far from his hometown – a suburb of Philadelphia.
“I worked with a few NFL guys to kind of really critique exactly what I was having trouble with,” Ammendola said. “I was also working on things mentally. … David Akers was kind of the key one I worked with, he’s from Philadelphia, so when I was back home I actually got to work with him a little bit.”
Akers had been cut by the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and was playing in NFL Europe before signing with the Eagles, with whom Akers found NFL stardom.
He spent 12 years in Philadelphia, where he stands as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and a year after leaving the Eagles, Akers set the NFL single-season record for most field goals made (44) while with the San Francisco 49ers. He’s a six-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time First-team All-Pro member – and a four-time Second-team selection. In total, Akers holds eight NFL records.
So, obviously, Ammendola was taking a lot of notes.
“My kickoffs have gotten a lot better, my height on the ball, especially for field goals,” Ammendola said. “My accuracy has gotten a lot better. It’s all kind of nitpicking and working with my craft every single day. I feel really confident.”
He said learning from one of the top NFL kickers is a constant for him.
“I’ll send them my film almost every every single day just to see what I’m doing right, what I need to work on,” the Cowboy kicker said.
Ammendola was hoping that he would get an opportunity to regain kickoff duties – or at least compete for it – but punter Jake McClue, who will also serve as Ammendola’s holder on field goals, will be the kickoff specialist for the Cowboys.
“He’s really stressing on me not getting hurt, so I completely understand that,” Ammendola said.
“My kickoffs have gotten a lot better, my height on the ball, especially for field goals. My accuracy has gotten a lot better. It's all kind of nitpicking and working with my craft every single day. I feel really confident.”
Cowboy senior placekicker