The Virginia football locker room became all the more unique beginning Wednesday. Darden graduate student Matt Ganyard — sporting No. 98 as a walk-on kicker — is officially the oldest player on the active roster by nearly 10 years. If he earns regular season snaps, he would be the third oldest player to ever play for a Power Five program. While perhaps a generalization in other circumstances, it is undoubtedly true that Ganyard has one of the most interesting stories of all Cavalier athletes.
He is already well accustomed to Virginia as a proudly noted “Double Hoo,” having completed his undergraduate studies in 2011. Ganyard is currently entering his final year at the Darden School of Business. After graduating in 2011, Ganyard joined the Marine Corps and later became a Cobra Pilot until the Summer of 2022. He then worked for the San Diego Padres in 2022 as a part of the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program for transitioning off active duty.
Ganyard has been a diehard Cavaliers fan for over a decade, keeping track of all Virginia athletics programs through social media. A quick glance at his Twitter feed shows a vast array of retweets, celebrating Virginia’s athletic successes. His passion for family and the Cavaliers is strong, as well as his passion for kicking. He participated in the 2022 Chris Sailer Kicking Camp, which is a prestigious official partner of the All-American Bowl. At the camp, Ganyard earned a Five Star rating and was ranked as the 16th best prospect. He has also trained with former NFL kicker Nick Novak.
His resume on Chris Sailer Kicking profile has Ganyard as “accurate on field goal with 60 yard range off the ground,” and that he “drives the ball 65+ yards, with 4.0+ hang time consistently.” Ganyard was the kickoff champion of multiple camps, and could earn his spot in that role for coordinator Keith Gaither’s special teams unit.
Brendan Farrell handled the kickoff role as a junior last season, but transferred to South Florida this offseason after the field goal job was won by rising sophomore Will Bettridge. Many college football teams use two kickers, which Virginia will likely continue to do.
In addition to his on field talent, Ganyard’s leadership skills from his military experience are a major boost to the Cavalier locker room. Derek Fisher — coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks — shared an enlightening experience of bringing on an Air Force Colonel for a motivational workshop with his players.
In her visit to the Sparks’ practice, Col. Jennifer Krolikowski emphasized “put your passion into it, change the organization’s culture for the better, and let people know they have value and how they can contribute.”
While alternative options — football or otherwise — were on the table, a return to Grounds is certainly a storybook ending for Ganyard. However, his story is far from over. Ganyard will begin a new chapter of his life and Cavalier football.
The result of the 2023 season has barely been set with training camp just starting — and while many are doubting this Virginia squad, no one can question the top class leadership present on and off the field. Ganyard sporting the American flag alongside Mike Hollins would make for a truly unforgettable team entrance at the home opener Sept. 9 against James Madison.