PROVO — Jake Oldroyd is kicking his way to stardom.
The Texan has turned into a special teams ninja for BYU’s football team. He’s a specialist who is giving BYU field flips with punts and his accuracy as a field goal kicker is changing how the Cougars manage games. His game-tying, last-second field goal at Tennessee capped a miracle scoring drive and contributed to a double-overtime win last Saturday.
Oldroyd is perfect as a field goal kicker this season, a run he’ll look to continue Saturday when USC visits LaVell Edwards Stadium.
His performance has left the media and fans trying to tag him with nicknames like “Jake the Make” and “Goldroyd.”
The nicknames tend to fit.
Oldroyd kicked three field goals in BYU’s 29-26 double-overtime win over Tennessee in Knoxville. His 33-yarder with one second left in regulation was pressure packed. It delivered a 16-16 tie and finished a most improbable BYU must-do drive that began at BYU’s 19 with 17 seconds to play.
That kick was a curveball that started outside the right upright and moved at least 4 feet to sail just inside and high of the right goal post. It was so close, Tennessee fans sitting in the end zone began cheering.
“I had no doubt it was good,” said Oldroyd, who is fast becoming the guy with ice in his veins and fearless under pressure.
Lee Johnson, a multi-decade NFL kicker and former BYU punter, said he has been impressed with the fearlessness of the former Carroll High (Southlake, Texas) star. “I hate that pressure, feeling it — I just hate it. He loves it. He really does love it.”
Oldroyd’s parents, Matt and Jennifer, were in Neyland Stadium Saturday night. They have committed to be present at every game their son plays. That night the UT crowd was deafening, a thunderous Rocky Top phenomenon directed right at their son, meant to distract and intimidate him.
As parents, as evidenced by an ESPN shot of QB Zach Wilson’s mother Lisa during the game, the intensity of concern for a player/child is almost indescribable when facing the thrill of success or a valley of failure and blame. Away from Lisa Wilson’s public moment, the Oldroyds were feeling their own universe get squeezed as Jake lined up for that crucial kick.
“We would much rather have him kicking PATs instead of field goals,” said Matt Oldroyd. “I was so happy for him and how well he did. We have been to some big games in huge stadiums, but this was a crazy environment. The Tennessee crowd was so loud and constantly trying to disrupt our team in any way possible.
“BYU had prepared for this — Jake said that the coaches were playing ‘Rocky Top’ in his ears as loud as they could while he was kicking field goals in practice this week. In the end, I was so happy for him and for the whole team. They did a great job of fighting to the finish and never giving up.”
After the Tennessee partisan screams died and a large BYU contingent of fans celebrated the kick, Jennifer Oldroyd was so happy for Jake she cried.
“I don’t even try to keep my emotions in check at Jake’s games because it’s not possible,” she said. “It’s not that I worry about Jake doing well — I know he will do well. He’s the guy you want in those pressure situations because he thrives on them and he’s so cool under pressure. But it’s still gut-wrenching for a mom.
“When we get back to Southlake (Texas), I’m looking forward to watching the game that I attended (since I have a hard time watching sometimes when I’m there in person. When I was a young mom, I remember watching football games on television and specifically thinking the last thing I would ever want to be was the mom of the kicker. And yet here I am.”
Oldroyd’s game-tying kick came at the end of a game where the Cougars struggled to execute. The loud crowd had a lot to do with operational miscues with snap counts, forcing coaches to develop a different way for Wilson to relay a call for the ball with hand signals and linemen tapping one another to get the signal to center James Empey.
Oldroyd is one of those BYU guys who is articulate and positive, and could be mistaken for an accountant. But inside, he’s a ball of energy and confidence, just what you need in a kicker, a no-nonsense deadeye with a jackhammer of a leg.
Matt Oldroyd describes his son as a great athlete who excelled in half a dozen sports. For years he played on one of the best club soccer teams in Texas. He was part of the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. He ran varsity cross-country as a freshman. Since football and cross-country are held during the same time of year, his coaches worked together to divide up Jake’s practice time so he could compete in both games and meets.
Jake competed at Texas powerhouse 6A Southlake Carroll, a program that holds the Texas state record with eight state football championships. Before BYU, he had already played in Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) as well as at Baylor’s and SMU’s stadiums. His eighth-grade basketball coach once challenged him to a free-throw contest after school to see who could make the most out of a hundred tries. His coach made 95 but Jake beat him.
Jake’s father excelled in competitive soccer growing up and coached all his three sons and his daughter from the time they were 4.
“Jake has always been very athletic and coordinated, even from a very young age,” said Matt Oldroyd. “When Jake was 7 years old, he led his team to the city soccer championship — our magic play was called, ‘Roll to Jake.’ That meant that when we had a free kick on our half of the field, we would have one of his teammates gently tap the ball in front of Jake and let him take a shot on goal. Little did we know that it was a lot like him kicking field goals.”
In middle school, Jake wanted to play every sport the school sponsored but had two concussions in soccer.
“As parents, we were concerned about his long-term health, so we didn’t let him play football initially since, in our school, he would be required to play other positions besides just kicker,” said Jennifer Oldroyd.
“We attended the first middle school football game of the season as a family, and after it was over, Jake went down on the field and started kicking field goals, barefoot, with a soccer ball, just for fun. Everyone had left except for the coach, and as I saw him walking off the field, I ran up to him and said, ‘Would you ever consider taking a player just as a kicker?’
“He looked over at Jake and said, “Is that him?” I told him it was, and he said: ‘Well, yes ma’am.’”
Invited to practice the next day, that was the beginning of Jake Oldroyd’s football career. In middle school, kickers were awarded 2 points for kicking PATs since it was so hard for kids that age to get the snap, hold and get a kick off.
In true heroic fashion last Saturday, Oldroyd shared the credit after the win.
Without the other parts, he’s just a guy waiting for the ball.
“I’m really appreciative of the rest of the team,” Oldroyd told BYUtv immediately after the Tennessee win. “The line did a fantastic job blocking all night. Mitch (Harris) had great snaps and Hayden (Livingston) is a great holder. All around, it was just flawless and I’m grateful for their execution as well.”
In the press room after the game, Oldroyd said he was just grateful BYU got to the point where he had an opportunity to tie the game. Once there, he just did his thing.
This is Oldroyd’s second beginning. As a walk-on out of high school, not even supplied a pair of shoes, he made the game-winning kick in the season opener at Arizona that ushered in the Kalani Sitake era of BYU football in the University of Phoenix Stadium. He then went on a two-year mission to Chile.
At the time, nobody knew who Oldroyd was or his background and that was his first kick as a college player, a move made on gut instinct by special teams coach Ed Lamb who made a switch from Rhett Almond.
This season, Oldroyd is 5 for 5 on field goals of 32, 37, 31, 42 and 33 yards. That’s businesslike work from a recently returned church missionary.
Many coaches and fans take a placekicker for granted. Many a painful loss due to a missed PAT or field goal has haunted the game and the people who play it.
Tampa Bay coach John McKay once said, “Kickers are like horse manure. They’re all over the place.”
Famous Chicago coach Buddy Ryan quipped, “Football kickers are like taxi cabs. You can always go out and hire another one.”
With the Cougars this season, you don’t get that feeling. Oldroyd is a force that cannot be ignored. He may change the way BYU calls plays in certain situations. Knowing he’s solid gives his teammates a shot of confidence that drives won’t come up empty.
Gary Zauner, who was a kicking specialist at BYU before moving on to the NFL said, “Kicking is not like some perfect science. The ball sometimes does funny things. A lot of coaches know nothing about kicking either. They don’t know. It takes time to know.”
The Cougars are lucky Oldroyd has seriously tried to become a master of his craft.