How does an NFL team take a position they have been infamously weak at for the last several years and in one offseason make it one of the most interesting camp battles to watch? It’s definitely a three-step process. First, you bring in a good coach at the position in question. Second, you keep the one veteran who had success at that position. Third, you draft one of the best young players at that position. Then, bring him in and round out the camp competition that has all eyes looking upright.
We are talking about the camp kicking battle playing out each day before Buccaneer fans eyes. Cairo Santos, Matt Gay, and special teams coach, Chris Boniol.
Undrafted by the Cowboys in 1994 would help kick the Cowboys to a victory in Super Bowl XXX in his second year. First Cowboy to have three consecutive 100 point seasons and set a club record for longest consecutive field goals at 26. The next season would break his own record-setting the mark at 27 consecutive field goals.
After retiring from playing, Boniol was an assistant coach for Dallas from 2010-2013, focusing on kickers and punters. Would spend 2014 with the Oakland Raiders before spending the next several years developing kickers at the college level.
Brazilian-born Santos was originally to spend a year at St. Josephs Academy in St. Augustine to learn English. When it was realized how his soccer skills in Brazil translated to the football field, he would stay for the remainder of high school honing his kicking skills. Santos would attend college at Tulane University. During his junior year, he would have a breakout performance making 26-of-27 field goals (one was blocked). He also was a perfect 21-of-21 on field goals; the long was a 57-yarder. Santos was named a consensus All American and would receive the Lou Groza award for the nations most outstanding placekicker.
He spent three years with the Chiefs and one with the Bears. Then he bounced from the Jets to the Rams, and finally the Buccaneers last season. Santos steadied the listing ship that had become the Tampa Bay kicking woes.
Matt Gay, with a soccer background, spent two years on the USA U-17 residency program before going onto the University of Utah. He was also a consensus All-American and won the Lou Groza Award in 2017 when he led the nation in field goals and set a new Pac-12 conference record with 30 field goals.
Selected by the Buccaneers in the fifth-round of the 2019 draft, Gay was brought in to compete with Santos for the Buccaneer kicking duties.
Whom Will It Be
With both kickers showing impressively so far this training camp, where this competition ends and who will be booting the ball for the Bucs moving forward is still very much up in the air. To have good competition at a position that has been completely disastrous for Tampa Bay for the last half-decade is a competition that many Buccaneer fans are quite happy to see.