Kentucky football: under appreciated Wildcat kickers vital to UK success

Matt Ruffolo of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Matt Ruffolo of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Kentucky football
Kentucky Wildcats celebrate after a Matt Ruffalo kick. (Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports) /

Matt Ruffolo just keeps splitting the uprights on FGs and PATs

The good news for Kentucky fans is Matt Ruffolo has been in so many big game situations and has a great head on his shoulders he is nearly clutch whenever called upon for field goals and puts an exclamation point on a touchdown with an extra point.

Ruffolo came to Kentucky in 2017 as a walk-on from Centerville, Ohio, and worked his way into earning a scholarship. He made the Dean’s List as a Freshman and has been on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll each of the following four years.

He admits he doesn’t mind taking on the “Old Man” designation of the team in a spring interview with BBN Tonight. 

"“I came in as a chubby little boy kicker who was like third string, I thought maybe I would get a chance but never really knew if I would get that chance. But if I went somewhere and football really didn’t work out I was going to enjoy myself… It’s like a dream come true now and great life experience.”"

When he came to campus to visit with his coach and fell in the love with the place all it took was an offer to walk on and Ruffolo said “Boom I’ll take it.”

He followed one of the greatest kickers ever at Kentucky in Austin MacGinnis and really has been just as steady although not called upon to kick as many field goals as MacGinnis (72).

For his career to date, Ruffolo has connected on 26-of-32 field goals and 94-of-99 extra points for 172 total points. His made field goal percentage of 81.3-percent ranks third all-time at UK. He is nearly automatic on extra points and ranks fifth overall at UK in number made.

His stellar year last year in which he hit 10-of-12 field goals and 54-of-56 extra points which is a single season school record that Lones Seiber held with 51 in 2007. He will also carry over a streak of five consecutive made field goals, dating back to Nov. 13 at Vanderbilt (2-2 vs. Vandy, 1-1 at Louisville, 2-2 Iowa).

When not on Kroger Field he is in the classroom working on his second master’s degree in finance. He already interned with UK Healthcare and also looking at hospital administration.

Jackson Smith

Waiting in the wings for his shot next year is freshman Jackson Smith from nearby Boyle County and a legacy player as dad Andy was an All-SEC punter for the Wildcat punter from 1997-99.

Jackson Smith did it all for Boyle County helping his team win two state titles, a runner-up finish, and a semifinal spot. He has a mighty leg for a weapon and was ranked as the top kicker/punter in the 2022 class by which also named him a three-time National Specialist of the Year and three-time All-American in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

As a senior for the Rebels the 5-11, 194-pounder from Danville, hit 72 of 78 extra points (four were blocked), nailed 7 of 9 field goals, and had 68 touchbacks. Oh and he punted 13 times for a 42.1 avg with zero return yards.

Obviously, the future looks bright for Kentucky with Jackson succeeding Ruffolo.