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Matt Ammendola Wants a Game-Winner, Looks Forward to Playing Close to Home



Most of us have imagined hitting the big shot. I practiced those game-winning free throws a thousand times in my parents’ driveway growing up. Matt Ammendola is no different, except that unlike most of us, he may actually be put in that situation. And like even less of us, he’s got the leg to do it from distance.

“I’ve been really working every year in practice,” Ammendola said this week. “A lot of the team doesn’t really get to see what us specialists do in the off time, but that’s one thing I like to practice.

“If it comes down to a game-winning situation, just got to have that in my back pocket just to be comfortable when I go out there and kick the ball through the uprights.”

When Ammendola decided to make the move 1,300-plus miles west to Stillwater, Oklahoma, he knew he would have to earn his own way. There was no scholarship offer from Oklahoma State or any other Division I school. Former OSU graduate assistant Robby Discher was in charge of special teams at the time and convinced Ammendola to come on as a preferred walk-on but could offer no assurance that he would earn a scholarship, or even get to play.

When he showed up as a true freshman, his predecessor Ben Grogan was fresh off of a sophomore season capped by a game-winner in Bedlam. While “Philly,” as Mike Gundy affectionately designated him, was redshirting in 2015, Grogan had two more game-winning kicks.

As a redshirt freshman, Ammendola took over kickoff duties with immediate results. Oklahoma State recorded its best touchback percentage since Quinn Sharp was donning orange. And when he got a chance to show off his leg at place kicking he made the fourth-longest field goal in OSU history at 53 yards. Grogan rode off into the sunset as Oklahoma State’s all-time leading scorer leaving Ammendola the reins for 2017.

Mike Gundy told us during spring camp that “Philly” could kick it a mile but had some issues with consistency on the shorter kicks. He missed the only PAT he attempted in 2016. And he missed a 33-yarder against Tulsa in Week 1 and a 42-yard attempt in Mobile last Friday. He’s also made field goals of 24, 31, 48 yards and another 53-yarder.

But a kicker, much like a cornerback, can’t afford to dwell on his mishaps. You’ve got to have a short memory.

“I’m just going out there, just visualizing myself kicking the ball through the uprights every time,” said Ammendola. “Every kick’s just an extra point to me.”

It’s also important to remember that Grogan had a couple of early hiccups of his own on his way to earning a reputation as a cold-blooded assassin.

It may not exactly be his old stomping grounds but Pittsburgh is in the vicinity. At just over 300 miles from the Philadelphia suburb he hails from, Heinz Stadium is close enough to host several Ammendola fans.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it. A lot of friends are going to come out there. Definitely high school buddies, kids I grew up with, so that’ll be definitely something to look forward to.”

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