CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — The goal of playing college football was never lost on Virginia Cavaliers player Matt Ganyard, who also happens to be a U.S. Marine veteran. At the age of 34, his dream is now a reality.

“I appreciate the question and for all of you being here, first of all,” Ganyard said. “It is wild to be sitting up here. I feel like this is a Ted Lasso in season one. This has been fun.”

The end result for Ganyard has been fun as he is a walk-on kicker for the Cavaliers football program. The road to get here was interesting, as first of all, he had to learn about playing the game of football 16 years ago.

“I first picked up a football after my high school soccer season and I had never played before,” Ganyard said. “I (had) just seen people kick on Saturday and I saw people miss it and making it and I said, ‘how hard is it?'”

Ganyard found it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

But over time as an undergrad at UVA, he kept practicing on his own. He even used YouTube as a guide to help him learn how to be a kicker.

He tried out for the team back when UVA was coached by Al Groh. Matt didn’t make the team. He would go on to graduate from Virginia in 2011 with a degree in history. Next, he would go on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps for nearly a decade where he was a cobra helicopter pilot.

The military is big in Matt’s family, as his dad was a 28-year Marine fighter pilot.

“I grew up in the community and I saw the great sides of it and the great experiences that it will offer. But it wasn’t until my third or 4th year at UVA that I saw it myself as something maybe I wanted to do. I wanted to serve some how,” said Ganyard.

Even while serving he was treating kicking as hobby as he kept working on his kicking craft.
Once his military obligation was over, Matt, at 32 years old, married with 2 kids, still had a year of eligibility to play football.

He spent time trying to find a school where he could get his MBA as well as live out the dream to be a kicker in college. This led him to UVA’s Darden School.

“I couldn’t just go to any school that was willing to take some old guy to kick as much as that would have been fun. I had to first find the schools that met the criteria with a great academic MBA program and second try to thread the needle. I was very fortunate that UVA would fit the build with the MBA program,” said Ganyard.

The road to being a college athlete took a lot of twists and turns. For Ganyard he is proud of the path to get where he is today.

“It is quite a special ending to a long drawn out story but the fun is just getting started in my opinion and I am excited about it,” said Ganyard.

If Matt gets the chance to play this season, now at the age of 34, he would be the third oldest person to ever play at a Power 5 program. The Virginia Cavaliers open up the season Saturday at noon against the Tennessee Volunteers in Nashville.