Home » 34-Year-Old Marine Veteran Kicks Off In Debut Season Of College Football

34-Year-Old Marine Veteran Kicks Off In Debut Season Of College Football

by Nolan Hawk

Marine Corps veteran Matt Ganyard made his college football debut for the University of Virginia Cavaliers over the weekend at the advanced age of 34.

His college career began with the kickoff last Saturday, when the Cavaliers played the Tennessee Volunteers in Nashville, but Ganyard’s journey with the UVA football program really started all the way back in 2009.

Nearly fifteen years ago, Ganyard was a freshman pursuing a degree in history at the university. Having a background in soccer, he decided to try out for the football team as a walk-on kicker.

Despite nailing all nine of his field goal attempts during tryouts, he received a discouraging rejection via email. However, this setback did not deter him.

Ganyard joined the Marine Corps and served as an AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot for ten years. Yet, he always devoted his spare time to refining his kicking skills through practice and video tutorials.

He often would enlist his squad mates to shag footballs while he practiced wherever they were stationed around the world.

“One time in Jordan Matt brought out his ball and tee, and he just started kicking on this turf soccer field,” recalled fellow Marine pilot Shane Caffrey.

“He kicked for like 30 minutes or so, to an hour, and he was hitting what seemed like 50-yard field goals.”

Because there were no football uprights, Ganyard aimed over a soccer goal, while his squadron chased after the balls.

The veteran eventually married and had two children with his UVA alum wife, Marie, who supported him while he spend weekends at kicking camps while stationed at San Diego’s Camp Pendleton.

“His wife would go to some of the camps with him,” Caffrey detailed. “And Marie’s fantastic. They’d ask her, ‘Oh, is your son out here?’ And she’d say, ‘Oh, no, my husband’s right there. He’s kicking.’”

Ganyard went back to the school to get his MBA this year and decided to give football the old college try. To his surprise, made the cut, but had to face another hurdle.

After making the team, he had to obtain a special waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play. Fortunately, he was able to obtain sixth year eligibility, as the start of his military service suspended his five-year collegiate eligibility back in 2011.

“I think one of the greatest things somebody can give is their time, and they put in so much time and effort to make this waiver of possibility. So I can’t thank them enough,” he told USA Today.

UVA lost to Tennessee 49-13, but for Ganyard, the season and his football career are just getting started.

“There’s a lot of little points that make me proud about this story,” Ganyard remarked. “Having never played and now making it as the old guy is great. But for me, I’m just most proud of the persistence.”

“I have no hard feelings that I didn’t make [the team] before, because it’s exactly how my story was supposed to be written,” he added.

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