As he lined up for a 34-yard field goal try in double-overtime against Holy Cross earlier this season, Tom Mante ’10 knew his team’s chances lay on his right foot. Make the kick and the Crusaders would need a field goal to tie on their possession. Miss the kick and a simple field goal would win it for Holy Cross.
“I kept telling myself that this attempt was just a chip shot, like any other PAT,” the placekicker and punter explained.
But it wasn’t — and he knew it.
Although Mante came to New Haven, Conn., as primarily a placekicker, the coaching staff asked him to concentrate on punting in his first two seasons as he backed up All-Ivy placekicker Alan Kimball ’08. Upon Kimball’s graduation in May, Mante was named the primary placekicker for the first time in his collegiate career.
But you wouldn’t have guessed that the Westford, Mass., native was only in his third game and first pressure situation at the position on Oct. 4.
He nailed the kick and watched Holy Cross kicker Matt Partain miss on his opportunity to extend the game to another overtime. The 31-28 victory improved Yale’s record to 2-1 at the time.
“It was a great feeling to make my first real pressure kick of the season and career, but importantly, I was just glad that we got the win,” Mante said.
After converting two 37-yard field goals in Saturday’s win over Columbia, Mante is now six for nine on the season and making his transition look easy. But even though he placekicked in high school, Mante acknowledged that kicking at the college level is a whole different animal.
“The speed at which the game is played is much faster in college than it is in high school,” he said. “In high school, I had all the time in world behind my line and always felt little to no pressure.”
While dealing with the pressures of the added responsibility of kicking, Mante has continued to be one of the Ancient Eight’s top punters.
Mante’s average of 41.2 yards per punt and long of 71 yards both rank third in the league. The political science major has recorded six punts of 50-plus yards and has pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line six different times.
In addition to his two made field goals last Saturday, Mante punted four balls inside the 20, including two inside the 10-yard line.
The performances as kicker and punter earned him the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week award.
For a team that depends on defense and field position as much as Yale does, Mante made things a lot easier for the Bulldogs.
“Last week was the ultimate example of Tom’s influence on field position,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “He had four punts inside the 20, two kickoffs into the end zone and two kickoffs that our coverage team tackled the returner inside the 20. Columbia’s average field position for the game was their own 18-yard line.”
These results are the product of the hard work Mante has put in while at Yale — and his teammates have taken notice.
“His work ethic and how he strives to be perfect helps him succeed in both punting and kicking,” backup placekicker Alex Barnes ’11 said. “He’s always working on the little things that help him be successful.”
Mante’s contributions have transcended the gridiron for the Bulldogs. His teammates also point to his qualities as a teammate that sets him apart.
“He’s a great teammate who is always positive and very encouraging,” Mante’s long snapper Matt Kelleher ’10 said. “He is always cheering on his teammates and always has an optimistic outlook on the game.”
That still doesn’t mean he won’t hear the quintessential kicker joke or two from his comrades.
“I have heard of some pretty funny kicker jokes, as every once in a while, we get joked upon as ‘the real athletes’ on the team,” Mante said.
But if he keeps performing the way he has, the joke is going to be on the opposition.