Matt Kaskey ’19 makes NFL debut with Carolina Panthers
Matt Kaskey ’19 made his NFL debut for the Carolina Panthers on Jan. 3 against the New Orleans Saints, who clinched a 33-7 victory.
A standout offensive lineman during his time with the Big Green, Kaskey was a two-time All-Ivy League selection. In his senior season, he received the honor in a unanimous vote and also earned a position on two FCS All-America Second Teams, as well as two Third Teams.
In that 2018 season, Kaskey started every one of the Big Green’s 10 games at left tackle, spearheading an offensive line that paved the way for the team’s effective offense. That year, the Big Green’s rushing output ranked 11th in the FCS, its passing efficiency eighth, and the O-line was tied for sixth in fewest sacks allowed, with just seven on the year.
After the conclusion of his exceptional senior season, Kaskey went undrafted in the 2019 NFL draft but was signed soon after as a free agent by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams released him in August 2019 while trimming down the roster. Carolina signed Kaskey to its practice squad the following month, and he’s been with the program ever since.
After being waived on Sept. 6 and signed back to the practice squad the next day, Kaskey spent most of the 2020 season off the active roster. However, ahead of the Panthers’ Week 15 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, he was temporarily elevated to the active squad as a COVID-19 replacement — though he saw no playing time.
He remained on the active squad the following week — again without receiving playing time — but before the Panthers’ season-closing Week 17 matchup with the Saints, Kaskey was officially signed to the active roster and got on the field for one play on special teams.
“It was rewarding to get out on the field for the last game of the year,” Kaskey said. “I got one snap on a field goal at left guard. That was great, but I wish I was out there more.”
Kaskey’s newly signed contract keeps him in Carolina through the 2022 season, so if he impresses in training camps and team activities this offseason, he may get the opportunity to make it back on the field.
“I still have to come into camp and earn my spot on the team because they still have the right to cut me or waive me,” Kaskey said. “… But if things go well, I'll be here for at least the next year.”
Kaskey credits Dartmouth for giving him the tools to find success at a professional level. He said he felt particularly grateful to Keith Clark, the offensive line coach, for helping him improve both his blocking technique and his attitude on the field. Those are lessons Kaskey said he has carried with him to the NFL.
“You can't be docile out there,” Kaskey said. “You’ve gotta be pretty aggressive, and you've gotta treat every play like it's the most important play of the game.”
Jake Guidone ’21, a tight end for the Big Green, also praised Kaskey’s attention to blocking technique in their shared time at Dartmouth.
“Before the game he would pull me over, we would go over the plays he knew I didn’t have down to a T and honestly, it really was life-saving for me,” Guidone said. “Because not only did our blocks work better, we helped our team win consistently.”
Kaskey’s Dartmouth teammates praised not just his football talent, but his role on the team and his ability to lead.
“He is somebody that displays both leadership and a sense of camaraderie with the team,” Guidone said. “He wasn’t putting himself above anyone else, he wasn’t bragging that he was the best — he just did his job, day in and day out.”
Big Green quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 said that he appreciated Kaskey’s ability to joke around and lighten the team’s mood but noted that once Kaskey took the field, he transformed into a “fierce competitor.”
Kaskey said that his NFL coaches and the linemen on Carolina’s roster have helped him continue to improve his game during his time in the pros.
“That's why I love being an O-lineman,” Kaskey said. “Because everyone's going to bat for each other and trying to make everyone else better, even though we're competing for spots.”
Kaskey enters the offseason now with an eye toward earning more playing time next season. For the moment, though, he said that his focus remains on the little things — namely, continuing to improve his fitness and working on his technique.
“Obviously, my goal at the end of the day is to make the roster and play and start, but I think it starts on a smaller scale than that,” Kaskey said. “I don't like setting my goals at such big things. My goal is just to get better at offensive line, and then hopefully that results in those bigger goals being accomplished.”