UB’s first new starting kicker in four years: Alex McNulty

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Alex McNulty was doing a drill in gym class at McQuaid Jesuit High School in his sophomore year when he realized he might have a chance on the field. 

After his teacher set up a couple footballs, he hit a 55-yard field goal at the end of class. 

“Then a couple of guys from the football team were like, ‘Hey, you want to join the football team next year?’” he said.

He did and became the starting kicker.

McNulty, now UB’s starting kicker and a walk-on sophomore, has been able to compensate for his lack of early career play. McNulty’s two field goals against Penn State last week and 40-yarder against Robert Morris show an athlete ready to take the spotlight. He fittingly always dreamed of being a collegiate athlete, but as a member of track and hockey teams. Still, his intensive training with the Bulls has pushed him into a crucial role on the football squad.

“It’s been fun,” McNulty said of being on a Division-I football team. “It’s nice to have a different life from other students. You get a lot of cool experiences traveling on the road, having all of these great teammates, just having a brotherhood outside of the classroom that could support you.”

Unlike many of his teammates, McNulty isn’t on a scholarship. 

He came to UB after his McQuaid kicking coach, and UB alum, recommended he walk-on to the team. McNulty doesn’t see his origin story as an obstacle and is solely focused on making the team better.

“I don’t think about who’s on scholarship, who’s a walk-on,” McNulty said. “I just think we’re all football players on the same team and we need to compete to make the team the best we can.”

On Sept. 7, McNulty fulfilled a lifelong dream when he took the field against Penn State. 

In front of a raucous crowd at Beaver Stadium, he went 2-for-3 on field goals. Even though Buffalo lost the game, he was still able to take a step forward in his development.

McNulty has embraced all of his opportunities, even when they present themselves as competition.

“I hope I can keep the spot, keep the competition going strong,” he said. “[Freshman kicker/punter] Jackson Baltar has been giving me a good run for my money, but it helps us both. We’ve both gotten better during camp.”

During his freshman year, McNulty was in a similar position as Baltar, sitting behind Adam Mitcheson on the depth chart. Mitcheson was a four-year starter at Buffalo, where he set the school’s all-time scoring record. 

“He was a big help,” McNulty said about his predecessor. “He taught me about a lot of things, especially elevation. And just how to mentally focus on the game because he was always very level-headed.”

The coaching staff finally gave McNulty a chance to showcase his skills during the end of the 2018 season. He made his collegiate debut on Nov. 23 against Bowling Green, connecting on a 21-yard field goal and going 2-for-2 on extra points. The next week, he got to take the field against Northern Illinois for the 2018 MAC Championship Game, where he missed a costly extra point at the start of the second quarter.

Buffalo ended up losing the game 30-29.

McNulty, who comes across as genial yet reticent, prioritized coming back stronger than before. 

“I think I just had to step back and realize everyone makes a miss every now and then. It was an unfortunate one, but you’ve just gotta come back and realize that it happens to everyone, but now I’ve gotta get better and not let it happen again.”

In a 38-10 first-week win over Robert Morris, McNulty hit a 40-yard field goal and went 4-for-4 on extra points.

“It felt good to get back out there,” he said. “Especially ending on that miss, that being the last kick I had, I just wanted to get out there and prove to myself that I got better during the offseason and I wasn’t going to let it happen again.”

That mentality has paid off. For the first time since 2015, the Bulls have a new starter at kicker: Alex McNulty.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.