The perfect Christmas present for University of Kentucky punter Tim Masthay: a trophy case.
Masthay has racked up some impressive hardware during his Wildcat career.
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He has been named UK's Special Teams Player of the Year the past two seasons, and was a first-team All-SEC selection this fall.
But as good as Masthay has been on the field, and both UK Coach Rich Brooks and special teams coach Steve Ortmayer think Masthay has a legitimate shot to play in the NFL, his off-the-field portfolio is the stuff that coaches and administrators dream of.
He's helped raised funds to fill stockings and provide a holiday meal to underprivileged youth and family last Christmas, collected groceries for elementary school students and their families and he has been a guest speaker at numerous school and church functions.
Masthay is also a two-year Academic All-America choice, one of only 11 players named to the AllState/AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Good Works Team, and a treasurer of the UK Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Brooks called Masthay a model representative of his program.
"He's the complete definition of student-athlete," said Brooks. "And not only is he outstanding on the football field and in the classroom, he also finds enough time to devote to charitable causes."
The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge is among the many venues where Masthay has volunteered. Jennifer McCoart, associate director of the Hope Lodge, said Masthay showed up one day shortly after the Lodge opened last March to offer his services.
"He said he'd be willing to do whatever we needed, and he's lived up to that," McCoart said. "He'd drive the shuttle van and take cancer patients to treatment, clean the rooms, answer phones. And he was always eager to talk about the football team and the games, and that meant a lot to our patients."
Masthay grew up in a family with four brothers and a sister. He said his parents, Dr. Mark and Jean Masthay, instilled the giving back trait in him at an early age.
"I just learned that we're not just living for ourselves," Masthay said. "And as a student-athlete, you have so many opportunities. I've just been able to take advantage of meeting a lot of great people along the way who have provided me with avenues to give back."
Masthay traveled to the African country of Ghana in the summer of 2008 for an educational and service trip, doing projects at a school and orphanage, and he hopes to eventually join the Peace Corps and serve in Africa. He's also set to marry his fiancée, Amanda Tyree, next summer.
With that type of schedule, when does Masthay find time for sleep?
"I don't think he does," said UK long snapper Brad Hart, who competed against Masthay in high school and will be in his wedding. "We give him a hard time because he really is a grown-up compared to the rest of us. He's mature beyond his years. He gets up at like six in the morning, reads, and will cook a huge breakfast before he comes into practice. And he's the first special-teams guy at practice while the rest of us are straggling our way in here. I don't know how he does it."
Masthay had a big-time athletic profile at Murray High School. He was an all-state football player who finished third in the state in receiving, and was also an all-state soccer player and all-region baseball player.
But Masthay still had to grow into a full-time punter. He was slow to get punts off at times early in his career, which resulted in several blocks. And there was inconsistency, as Masthay would skyrocket one punt, only to shank the next.
The light started coming on for Masthay in 2007 with his career high 39.8-yard punting average. Just as important, he developed a penchant for booming kickoffs out of the end zone, as his 23 touchbacks led the SEC and often helped the Cats win the field position battle.
Masthay's first two seasons brought questions as to whether he'd ever be a top-flight SEC kicker, but Brooks invested hours of practice time and patiently waited for him to develop.
"That meant a lot and said a lot to me, that he stuck with me through the ups and downs and inconsistencies," Masthay said. "It motivated me to keep working. My junior year, things just came together. Things seemed simpler. I didn't think about stuff as much and it wasn't as much a thought process as it used to be."
"We took him as an athlete who hadn't punted much," said Ortmayer. "He had so much ability, his technique caught up with his ability, and now it shows up everywhere."
Masthay has taken things to another level this season. His 45.3 yard punting average leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation, and he's been his usual reliable self on touchbacks again with 20.
Ortmayer thinks that Masthay's ability to kickoff in addition to punt improves his chances of making an NFL roster. Masthay said he'll spend a year or two trying to play professionally, but not surprisingly has plenty of other things in his back pocket if pro football doesn't pan out.
"I'm going to work out this spring and play it step-by-step as far as the NFL goes," Masthay said. "Sometimes it takes kickers a while to get in. I'll evaluate my chances after a year or two and go from there. I know you have to be married at least a year before you can join the Peace Corps, and that's something I want to do. If the NFL doesn't work out, I'll find some other things to do with my life."
As for that trophy case?
"I don't have one yet," Masthay said. "Honestly, even if I could, I wouldn't have a trophy room at all. I'd just give it to all the people who contributed and made it possible for me to win those awards."
Spoken like a true giver.