Cantele shrugs off pressure

By Joshua Kinder

He’d already done it once before — from the same spot nonetheless. So why not go for it again?

Though Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele didn’t make the 51-yard field goal try last Saturday against Iowa State, it wasn’t from a lack of confidence. The sophomore made it from exactly the same spot during the Wildcats’ spring game last year. On Saturday, he simply missed the kick — an attempt he’s already forgotten about —he says.

“If I miss a kick, I miss a kick,” he said Tuesday during K-State’s weekly press conference. “I don’t keep thinking about or anything like that. I just move on to the next one.”

Cantele — the younger brother of former Wildcat kicker Anthony — might be the calmest and coolest kicker around with that kind of mindset. The Wichita native admittedly doesn’t lack confidence and says that it’s pretty difficult to poke holes in the attitude he brings to the field every day.

“I’m not too worried about messing up,” said Cantele, who has made 7 of 9 field goal tries this season. “Obviously, I don’t want to mess up. I just don’t think about the failures and try to think about the positives that come from making every kick.

“I don’t overthink it at all.”

A kicker with no fear?

Well, some of that comes from growing up playing football as a safety and wide receiver. He didn’t start kicking a football until his sophomore year of high school — after his brother had graduated. And Jack had intended to play golf in college anyway. He made 15-career field goals at Kapaun Mount Carmel and was named all-state on the football field as a senior, but he was even better on the links. A two-time all-state selection in golf, the younger Cantele owns the second-lowest round in Kansas state high school history with a 5-under-par 67 in 2010.

“I never thought about kicking really until my sophomore year in high school — until (Anthony) left,” he said. “I was a safety and receiver before that. And I was planning on playing golf in college, so I never thought about it as a tool to get into college either.

“If you ask my parents, they’d tell you I was a better golfer than I was a kicker. Well, for sure.”

But he’s not too shabby of a kicker either.

Cantele made the first five field goals of his career — from 29 and 27 yards against Louisiana, a 42-yarder in K-State’s win over UMass and then a pair of field goals from 24 and 32 yards out against Baylor. His first miss of the year was from 41 yards against Baylor, but he followed that with a career-long 44-yarder against the Cyclones — sandwiched around the miss from 51 and a good one from 42 yards later in the game.

Though Cantele has been a model of consistency for the Wildcats (4-4, 2-3 Big 12), who travel to Lubbock, Texas, this Saturday to face the Red Raiders, he knows other good kickers sometimes have rough patches. Some patches can be tougher than others to break free of, sometimes resulting in very good kickers having mental meltdowns — even on extra points — doing something that’s repeated a thousand times during a given week of practice.

That’s not something Cantele is worried about ever happening to him, despite this being his first year as K-State’s primary placekicker and replacing his brother, who was one of the most successful at the position in school history. He shrugs off the notion of feeling pressure.

“I don’t know how it happens and maybe more goes into it than I would know, but that kind of stuff has never happened to me,” he said. “If I’m going out there to kick an extra point, I’m just happy we scored a touchdown. I’m not thinking, ‘Oh God, I need to make this extra point.’ And the same goes for a field goal. Even if it’s a harder kick, I’m still going to be as confident as I am on an extra point.”

You can’t ice a kicker who already has ice water flowing through his veins, he says.

“I mean, they can try, but it’s never affected like that because maybe I don’t think the way everyone else does or something,” Cantele said. “I just go out there and kick the ball.”

Time will tell how Cantele stacks up in the end compared to his brother, who finished his career with the fourth-most field goals in K-State history at 37 — only three makes from passing fellow Wichitan brothers Joe and Jamie Rheem, who made 38 and 39, respectively.

But one thing is certain — Jack is a better tackler than Anthony. After all, he did play safety at one time.

“I do know I have a little more tackling savvy than my brother had,” Jack said. “Anthony had no idea how to play any positions. He was a soccer player.”

There could come a time when Jack has to make the touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff. Perhaps he can draw on his previous experience on defense?

“It’s been a while and I miss it a lot,” he said. “But against these guys? I would try, but we’re talking about Kansas 5A football, not Big 12 football. Maybe if someone wasn’t looking, I’d like the opportunity to put a hit on them.” Anthony had no idea how to play any positions. He was a soccer player.

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