Featured Athlete
Matt Cotiguala
Matt Cotiguala
September 23, 2015

Hometown: Orland Park, Ill.
High School: Lyons Township
Major: Accounting (will earn his Master's of Accounting in the spring)

Despite what he called the worst punt of his life "by far," Saturday was a pretty good afternoon for St. Ambrose kicker/punter Matt Cotiguala.

The senior followed up his 20-yard dud late in the third quarter, with a 72-yard bomb that rolled dead at the 1-yard line early in the fourth.

He punted a total of five times in SAU's big Homecoming win over Lindenwood-Belleville for an average of 43.8 yards to maintain the NAIA's top punting average in the country at 47.1 yards. He was also perfect as a kicker, connecting on field goals of 22 and 29 yards and all six extra point attempts.

His efforts earned Cotiguala Mid-States Football Association Midwest League Special Teams Player of the Week honors. All of this coming on the heels of a first-team all-conference season as both a kicker and punter in 2014.

But five years ago, Cotiguala sure didn't see himself kicking and punting for the Bees. He had at that time what he thought were higher aspirations.

Coming out of Lyons Township High School, Cotiguala had preferred walk-on opportunities with some Big Ten programs before ultimately decided to attend Illinois State University.

After a red-shirt year, he decided to reopen the recruiting process and spent a year at a junior college which led him to Central Michigan University the following year.

But early that season, through no fault of his own, Cotiguala was ruled ineligible due to a "recruiting error" by the school.

With the opportunity to rejoin the team at CMU the next fall, Cotiguala decided things "just didn't feel right," and decided to look at some NAIA schools.

St. Ambrose was one of those schools.

"I thought Coach Magistrelli was a great guy. He was honest and genuine and St. Ambrose had everything I was looking for."

It's been a perfect match.

Last year, Cotiguala was 11th nationally at 40.4 yards per punt and booted a school-record 77-yarder vs. St. Francis (Ill.) on Nov. 8. He also connected on 9-of-12 field goals.

Things are going even better in the early stages of this season.

After missing his season-opening field goal attempt for the second straight year, Cotiguala has been successful on his last four tries. His 12 points against Lindenwood-Belleville are the fourth-most by a Bee kicker in program history. He is the only punter in the NAIA averaging better than 47 yards a kick and his 72-yarder Saturday is the fifth-longest punt in school history.

"For personal goals, I'd like to lead the nation in punting, but it's a weird thing. If I'm in there to punt that means the team really didn't do its job. I know I'm in there to help the defense by backing the other team's offense up. And I know when I hit a big punt, it energizes the whole team. I see that when I'm running back to the sideline. I hope it gives a boost to the defense.

"I also have aspirations to do as well kicking field goals," he continued. "I've never had the opportunity for a game winner and I hope the team is winning, but if we need a field goal late in a game, I'm going to be ready."

Cotiguala, who has had the unique opportunity to stand on the sidelines as a visiting college player in Ann Arbor, Mich., three straight years - once with Central Michigan at the University of Michigan and the last two years as a Bee visiting Concordia ("I've played at the Big House once and the Little House twice," he said.), realizes he doesn't do it alone and is quick to thank his teammates.

"The whole punt team is fantastic. Zack Cinotto has been the team's long snapper for the last three years and has not had a bad snap yet. Fred Kassal has been my personal protector the last two years and does a great job. He takes a pounding and gets no recognition for it. Pat Smith is the holder and he spends a significant amount of time outside his time preparing as the quarterback to work on holding. It takes the entire team."

Not only has Cotiguala found a home at St. Ambrose, he may stick around the community even longer. After completing his Master of Accounting degree in the spring of 2016, he has already lined up a job with McGladrey, a public accounting firm in Davenport.

"You never know what's going to happen when you transfer, but I can't see it working out any better than it did for me. I always had my sights set on the biggest schools but I didn't realize there was so much potential at St. Ambrose. The team chemistry is great and I've made so many great friends. I've learned so much and I am so glad I came to St. Ambrose to finish here."