There wasn’t much for Texas senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley to celebrate after falling in a 23-0 shutout to K-State on Oct. 25.
However, across the field stood Wildcats’ redshirt-freshman kicker Matthew McCrane, who played alongside Shipley at Brownwood High School in Brownwood, Texas.
Former Brownwood head coach Bob Shipley, Jaxon’s father and McCrane’s high school coach, said his son took great pride in seeing his former teammate’s career come together with three made field goals in the game.
“When Jaxon and I talked after the game, that was the first thing he said,” Bob, who is now the head coach at Belton High School (in Belton, Texas), said. “‘Dad, did you see Matt? He killed it.’ That was fun. Obviously, Jaxon wanted to win the game, but at the same time, he knows what Matt has put into kicking and all the sacrifices he has made. He was really happy for him as well.”
McCrane has played like anything but his freshman label in his first stretch as the Wildcats’ starting kicker.
He has surpassed former K-State all-American Martin Gramatica for most points in one season as a freshman with 77 overall. Other than Darren Sproles’ 104-point sophomore season in 2002, McCrane’s mark is the best for any Wildcat in their first two years in the program.
McCrane was labeled as the No. 2 kicker on the season-opening depth chart, but three missed field goals from junior Jack Cantele against Auburn on Sept. 18 opened the door for the Brownwood, Texas native.
“To come into this season and not be the guy, he just continued to be patient and you never know when your number is going to be called,” Bob said. “I’m just thankful that he responded. I’m not thankful that it happened the way that it did, but he’s really come up big for Kansas State. I know there are a lot of people who are awful proud of him in the state of Texas.”
Having played quarterback and wide receiver in high school, the first-year phenom is used to the adversity that often surrounds a kicker.
“I played different positions in high school and I didn’t just kick,” McCrane said. “I try not to let the pressure get to me and I don’t think it does, because I’m used to the pressure situations at other positions. Obviously college is different, but when it came to the West Virginia field goal – especially after missing the two before – I tried to not let the pressure get to me.”
With the difficult transition to collegiate kicking, McCrane is thankful for what four-year special teams coach Sean Snyder has done for his development.
“When I first got here, I wasn’t hitting the ball very well,” McCrane said. “Coach (Sean) Snyder has helped me tremendously. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s helped me with ball height and obviously (some) consistency. From short range and long range, he’s helped a lot through that.”
Having converted on both of his field goals and five extra points attempts, the redshirt freshman was named Big 12 special teams player of the week on Monday following K-State’s 51-13 win over Kansas.
“As a freshman, that’s big for me,” McCrane said. “I’d obviously like to continue to do that in my career, but I’m grateful to get on the field this young. Not many redshirt kickers get the chance to do that. Getting playing time and getting an award for it is really big for me.”
Watching from afar, Bob isn’t surprised to see how McCrane has settled into the position. His play at K-State was something he also displayed as a high-school kicker.
“He was a natural at it, but at the same time he worked really, really hard,” Bob said. “All year round, he was perfecting his craft and going to camps all over the country.”
With Mel Gibson’s famous, “Aim small, miss small,” line from “The Patriot” in mind, K-State’s freshman points leader is ready for the challenges that are presented when he takes the field.
“It was always a dream growing up to play Big 12 football,” McCrane said. “Awhile back it was for Texas and it didn’t go that way. It’s playing Big 12 and Division-I ball, so I’m definitely grateful for that. All I can say is I’m living the dream and if I continue doing my job and stay focused, it’ll be good for us.”