K-State kicker Jack Cantele’s story one of redemption

Jack Cantele's efforts last weekend resulted in him earning Big 12 special teams Player of the Week. 

Jasen Vinlove/Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

MANHATTAN, Kan. — In the year since the worst night of his football career, Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele has learned perspective is everything when it comes to his story.

A story he is not afraid to tell.

Cantele missed three field goals against No. 5 Auburn last September in the Wildcats’ biggest nonconference game at home since second-ranked Penn State visited in 1969. Those missed points made the difference in a 20-14 loss, and left Cantele mocked and chastised on social media.

Just days later, he lost his starting job, too.

"Relatively speaking, my problems weren’t that big," Cantele said this week, as the Wildcats spent their bye getting ready for the start of Big 12 play at Oklahoma State.

"People deal with a lot worse stuff than missing kicks in an important football game," he said. "Those are just lessons you learn. But it’s not like I lost a family member I’ll never get to talk to again. When you put it into perspective, it makes it a lot easier."

It also helps that Cantele returned to form in a big way against Louisiana Tech last Saturday.

Filling in for the injured Matthew McCrane, he hit four field goals in a 39-33, triple-overtime victory, including a must-make 44-yarder in the second extra period.

Make no mistake, though: Given a chance to do it all over, Cantele said he would gladly go back to Sept. 18, 2014, make those field goals against Auburn and avoid the ensuing fallout.

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"My thoughts were all over the place," he recalled. "I was thinking about what was going to happen with the starting job. I was thinking about what was going to happen with the team as a result, with the rankings and how the season would play out because of that."

Yet, that is exactly why perspective is key. Cantele is now content with himself, and he doesn’t shy away from questions about what is simply known as the "Auburn game."

Instead, he talks about how the experience made him a better teammate and person.

"The main adversity to take away in sports is that this is your practice run in life," he said. "You get to learn a valuable lesson at zero cost — zero expense — apart from people saying things."

Also important in his comeback was improving himself as a kicker.

Cantele pushed McCrane in practice over the past year, and when called upon against Louisiana Tech, he delivered with a crucial field goal to keep the game going.

"He’s rallied back," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I admire him because a lot of young people in this day and age, having lost their job a year ago and went all the way through the season without getting it back, would have hung it up. He didn’t do that."

Cantele’s efforts last weekend resulted in him earning Big 12 special teams Player of the Week, a nice honor but hardly something that will define him anymore.

What Cantele does hold valuable is his story, which started in disappointment and has since been changed over the past year into a redemptive story he hopes will inspire others.

"The story I wanted to tell was that I have grown from my time at K-State for the better," Cantele said. "That I didn’t bring embarrassment upon my family or my teammates.

"In the end, it was truly a blessing. Fans can say that’s selfish that you think of it that way, but I can’t change it now so I might as well make the most of it."