It was a difficult decision for Matt White to make, but one he knew he had to make.
Following the 2012 high school soccer season, White decided to leave the sport behind so that he could focus on kicking and punting for the Mars varsity football team.
“I had played soccer since I was four years old,” he said. “I struggled with my decision at first, but knew that it would pay off in the long run.”
White turned in his second strong campaign in a row on the gridiron last fall and received attention from several colleges, including Indiana (Pa.) University, Gannon, Towson State and Ohio University. In the end, it was Monmouth University in New Jersey that appealed the most to White, a senior who signed a letter of intent to attend the Division 1-AA school Feb. 5.
“I plan on studying accounting and finance,” said White. “I visited Monmouth in January and met with the Dean of the business school and I thought it would be challenging. It sounded like it would be a good move toward my career.”
Monmouth, which recruited White as a punter, is under the direction of Kevin Callahan, the only head coach in the history of the program. The Hawks finished 6-6 overall last season and will begin play in the Big South Conference next fall, which is when White (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) wants to see the field.
“I was hoping to be a kicker in college,” he said, “but Monmouth signed another player, John Coleman, who they are looking at to be the place-kicker beginning next season. But they think I can come in and be the punter next year.”
“It takes a certain type of kid to be a specialist like that,” said Andy Bednar, who, along with Mike Baumgartel, coaches special teams for the Planets. “Matt showed that ability early on. He’s a great kid and I’m happy for him.”
White attended the Ray Guy Kicking and Punting Camp at Upper St. Clair last year and was recently named a Ray Guy prokicker.com All-American for 2013.
While White was known for his many touchbacks (52 over the last two years) and several clutch field goals at Mars, his punting also proved valuable to the Planets. Over the last two seasons, he booted the ball 32 times, with a school-record long of 61 yards last season. He capped his senior campaign by being named the Greater Allegheny Conference’s first-team kicker and punter.
White’s first season of organized football was his freshman year. For the first two seasons on the varsity squad, he was the backup to Ryan Gralish, who graduated in 2012. White stepped in as the team’s top kicker and punter the following autumn.
“I was always able to get the ball off, but noticed the distance on my punts getting longer my junior year,” said White. “I started hitting the sweet spot on a regular basis and that was due to the training I put in with Coach Baumgartel. I plan to work out with him over the summer.”