BOGACZYK: Cincotta Has Snapped Up Success at Marshall
The Word on the Herd-Nov. 10, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Gone in a snap.
Maybe it’s appropriate that Marshall football senior Matt Cincotta sees his four years in the Thundering Herd program and on the MU campus in such fashion.
After all, he’s been the Herd’s long snapper – and a great one -- since he arrived in 2012. He’s played every game of his career, a number that reaches 51 when FIU visits Edwards Stadium on Saturday for his and 17 teammates’ Senior Day.
“Oh, absolutely, it’s gone by so fast,” Cincotta said after a Herd practice last week. “I can still vividly remember moving into the dorms my freshman summer like two days after I graduated (from Charlotte Catholic High School). There was all that, and then WOW (MU’s Week of Welcome) started … living in freshman dorms.
“Gosh, it’s gone by so fast, it’s crazy. Like today, I went to get measured for my (graduation) gown, and geez, it really hit me that it all really went past so quickly.”
The North Carolinian was the rare long snapper given a full scholarship from Day 1 by a coach. Doc Holliday appreciates consistency and reliability, and Cincotta has had that in spades with most of his 541 career snaps for punts, field goals and PATs. He was voted the All-Conference USA first team long snapper by league coaches last season.
But to measure Cincotta’s collegiate experience only in the handful of yards his snaps travel to classmate Tyler Williams’ hands would be wrong. The dark-haired, erstwhile linebacker also lives the first half of the term “student-athlete.”
A biology major with a pre-med focus, Cincotta, 22, will receive his undergraduate degree in 3 1/2 years – that’s seven semesters plus summer sessions – at Winter Commencement on Dec. 12. He will finish with a 3.60 GPA, graduating magna cum laude on a difficult academic track … especially when combined with the time-consuming task of major college athletics.
He will head to medical school, but he hopes later than sooner. The eventual goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon, but he intends to see if the NFL is in need of a long snapper, albeit an NFL-undersized one who does a 9-foot-10 broad jump and does 17 reps at 225 pounds in the Pro Bench.
“I’ll be taking the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) in the spring, then working at a hospital in the spring – hopefully Cabell Huntington or St. Mary’s here – and preparing for my Pro Day (in mid-March),” Cincotta said of that session before NFL personnel men. “We’ll see where all that Pro Day experience leads.
“Sure, I’m going to try (to make the NFL). I would regret it if I didn’t try. So, I’ll be training really hard, studying for the MCAT, get a job up here, hopefully to help my resume. But without a doubt, I’m giving Pro Day a try.
“Then, if not the NFL, then I’ll be applying to med school next summer and fall. I’ll apply definitely here, maybe a couple stretch places like an Ohio State, a (UNC) Chapel Hill, and then some other places closer to home in North Carolina.”
The Herd football seniors will be 18-for-18 in graduating this year as of next month. Cincotta has made it through classes like Organic Chemistry, Principles of Cell Biology and Principles of Genetics. He had one C … in Physics. Two of his 11 B grades were in Organic Chemistry.
It’s no snap.
“Organic Chemistry II was the hardest, without a doubt,” Cincotta said. “Those Organic Chemistries really kill you. I got B’s in those. Organic I, I took it in summer (2014), and because of how short (the term) was, I literally studied six hours a day, seven days a week for five weeks. Saturdays, Sundays, too.
“It was a lot. Then, Organic II last fall was during football season. It was a long 15 weeks. I was lucky enough to be with some kids in that class who I could get with and study with, and it really helped a lot being in a group like that – because you’re kind of working together to get through it. That was the hardest class, no doubt.”
Cincotta has been a key performer for four Herd teams that are a combined 36-14. He’s headed for a third straight bowl game and Marshall hopes to become the first team to play in three straight Conference USA Championship Games since divisional play began in 2005.
He played a significant role in last season’s Conference USA championship, too – snapping for the four clutch field goals by Justin Haig in Marshall’s title win over Louisiana Tech as the place-kicker was named MVP.
“Without a doubt, the best football moment for me was winning the conference championship,” Cincotta said. “I’d never won a championship before and I’ve never felt anything that satisfying. You work so hard for something and then it’s there.
“I feel like I didn’t contribute so much, but I was on the right team. But you work so hard, the offseason workouts, spring practice, August camp, the sleep you lose, and then you finally reach a goal. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had, without a doubt.
“But to get to contribute that much in a win like that was absolutely unreal. That day … My hat’s off to Justin, a clutch kicker if there ever was one. The kid comes through. I was lucky to play with him and be really part of something special like that.”
After snapping on punts, Cincotta runs down the middle of the field like he’s still a linebacker, seeking the return man. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is more athletic than most long snappers, lithe and strong. He’s made 12 career tackles on special teams in his career.
“Do I miss linebacker? I miss linebacker in high school,” Cincotta said, grinning. “I always say it like that. I felt more capable there, but I still love going down the field and making tackles.
“Would I have loved to play linebacker at this level? Yeah, sure, but I love what I do. I love perfecting snapping. But making tackles is always still fun.”
He’s snapped for 259 PAT, 74 field goal attempts and 208 punts with nary a one flying over Williams’ head when punting or the arms of Williams and former Herd holder Blake Frohnapfel. He’s snapped to a school-record punter and Ray Guy Award semifinalist (Williams), for a school-record place-kicker (Haig) and for a 2015 Lou Groza Award semifinalist (Nick Smith).
That doesn’t mean Cincotta is happy with all of his 500-plus snaps.
“There would be some that you wouldn’t think I’d think are bad, but in my mind, they are,” Cincotta said. “I’m really aiming right here for a punt (putting his hands level with his chest and mid-thigh). I’d say that was OK. I accept those. Bad? It’s probably more than I think. Forty, maybe. More than 500 snaps is a lot. Counting field goals, I’d say 30 to 40 could have been better.”
But has it all been what he expected?
“It’s a lot harder than I expected,” Cincotta said. “I did expect it to be hard, but you can never really mentally prepare yourself for how hard, how strenuous the workouts are going to be and the amount of stress that comes along with that and school and the number of and difficulty of the classes I was taking.
“You can predict it’s going to be hard – but not know just how hard. And then Saturdays are absolutely awesome, the best part of the year. The majority of it is the hard part, but the reward is definitely worth it, in my mind. You work so hard for 12-to-14 games that the Saturday’s go by just like that.”
Cincotta has made the most of every minute of his career and college experience. He took plenty of summer classes to lighten the academic load during football seasons. Now, the end is near, and he’s trying to savor every day with the Herd.
“What I’m going to miss most is being around the guys I’m around … This is more about who I am here with,” Cincotta said. “I’ve made lifelong friends here. Great guys. You build such strong relationships with everybody, especially the specialists.
“And it’s something I’m starting to think about now every day I come into the locker room. We’re in stretch lines and I’m thinking, ‘In a couple of months, I’m not going to see these guys that much anymore.’
“I’ll see them again, but not in this setting, and not so often. It’s going to be weird, really weird. I think about it all of the time now, a lot.”