Sept. 21, 2011
This is the second of eight feature stories on the 2011 Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame Class which will be enshrined in a ceremony on Sturday, October 1 at 1 p.m., in the Waggonner Room of Thomas Assembly Center. All are invited.
By T. Scott Boatright
When it comes to consistency, Matt Stover is king.
He was a constant as a four-year starter at kicker for Louisiana Tech University during a quickly changing era in its athletics history.
And he was a constant during his 20-year NFL career as his name remains etched in league record books.
That consistency led to many honors over Stover's career, including being inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, which will happen on Oct. 1.
Stover was impressive as a four-year starter for Tech, playing for three head coaches in the process. Stover was recruited by A.L. Williams, then kicked under Carl Torbush for a season before Joe Raymond Peace took over as Tech's coach for the remainder of Stover's career as a Bulldog.
"To me, he's the best kicker of all time on either the college or pro level," Peace said of his former kicker. "I know his numbers in college weren't that outstanding, but that's because we were in the process of moving up to 1-A football and played on the bad end of lopsided games back then. But he made some big kicks for us - some long kicks. He still holds the school record with a 57-yarder against Texas A&M.
Stover booted half of Tech's 10 longest field goals ever. His 57-yarder against Texas A&M in 1987 ranks first. He also kicked a pair of 53-yarders (against Louisiana-Monroe in 1986 and against Auburn in 1989) and two 52-yarders (against Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1987 and against Florida State in 1988). All in all, Stover had seven field goals of more than 50 yards.
He was a three-time All-Louisiana Sports Writers team member (1986, '88 and '89) and was named to the All-South Independent Team in 1989.
Stover ranks second all-time in field goals made and attempted at Tech (64-of-88) and also ranks fifth all-time in scoring (262 points).
"Those were some crazy times as we were making the move up to 1-A football," Stover said. "But I'm privileged to have been able to play during that time. My name is on the (Spirit of '88) in the south end zone of Joe Aillet Stadium; I was part of the group that helped build Tech to a 1-A level team. That's something I am very proud of and grateful to have been a part of."
Stover upped his game after entering the NFL. In college, he made good on 74 percent of his field goal attempts. In the NFL, he hit on 84 percent.
"That all goes back to college and the experience I got against some big-time teams as we made the move up to Division -1A," Stover said. "Because I kicked all four years, my learning curve and experience from big games taught me a lot about the kind of pressures I would handle for years in the NFL. We played some big games against teams like Florida State and Houston.
"But it wasn't only the big games that got me excited. The one Tech game I really miss is the annual State Fair game in Shreveport against Northwestern (State). Those were some great times."
Stover went on to have some great times in the NFL after being drafted in the 12th round of the 1990 draft by the New York Giants. He went on to play 19 more seasons for the Cleveland Browns (1991-95), Baltimore Ravens (1996-2008) and the Indianapolis Colts (1999).
"He was something special," Ruston Daily Leader Sports Editor Buddy Davis, who covered Stover for years, said. "The way he elevated his game on the pro level was something. He was a good college kicker who became great in the NFL because of his consistency."
During his pro career Stover earned a Super Bowl ring, winning a world championship with the Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl XXXV). He also kicked for the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, which was won by the New Orleans Saints. Stover was also on the practice squad for the New York Giants when they won Super Bowl XXV.
While in the NFL Stover connected on 83.7 percent of his field goals (471-of-563) and 99.5 percent (591-of-594) of his extra point attempts. He scored 2,004 career points and holds NFL records with 422 consecutive extra points made and 38 consecutive games with a field goal. He also ranks third all-time in the NFL with 36 consecutive field goals.
"In my eyes, he's in the NFL Hall of Fame," Peace said. "Look at those numbers. We knew we could count on him at Tech, but he raised the bar in the NFL. You can't say enough about his longevity and his consistency over that period of time.
"For a kicker, and I don't say it loosely, Matt was very intense and passionate about the game. His success came from that intensity and the fact that he was willing to do whatever it took to get his mind and body right. He was one of the best players - let alone kickers - under pressure I've ever seen or been around."
Stover said his success in the NFL all started during his career as a Bulldog.
"That's what got me ready," Stover said. "Tech was the only (college) that gave me a serious look, and I'm so grateful for that. I had a great time a couple of years ago when (then) Tech Coach Derek Dooley asked me to speak to the team before the Navy game. Things have changed around there so much - in a positive way - and that was great to see. I loved it; it was a great opportunity to give back to the program that helped make me who I became. I just talked to them about manhood and taking responsibility, not only for yourself, but for your teammates. Making sure the right kinds of things are going on around you.
"I was blessed to have a good, long career in the NFL. Not many players get to say that, and I realize how fortunate I was. I never missed a game due to injury. I played with high ankle sprains, pulled quads and back spasms a few times, but I was always able to get out there on the field and do my job."
Stover is also looking forward to getting back to Tech for the Hall of Fame induction and seeing the Bulldogs play Hawaii later that day.
"It'll be great," Stover said. "Hawaii was a dream when I played at Tech. Who would have guessed they would have ended up in the same conference? But time changes everything, just as it changed me and the Tech football program. Fortunately, all of those changes have been for the better. I had a great football career and have a great life, and being honored like this by Louisiana Tech is a dream come true. I'm humbled and extremely grateful. Without Tech, I never would have realized my dreams and goals."