Former Ute honors friend who inspired his journey to LA Rams, Super Bowl
OREM, Utah — Orem High School graduate and former University of Utah player Matt Gay won’t just be wearing his number eight jersey to the Super Bowl on Sunday. When he takes the field on the sport’s biggest stage, he’ll also be wearing the initials “P.O.”
Matt has worn those initials to every professional and college football game he’s played in. They belong to a close friend who was killed in 2017 and who he credits for helping him make it to the football field.
Parker Overly and Matt grew up together in Orem. In high school, Parker played tight end on the football team and Matt became an all-state soccer player with no plans of aiming for the football goal post.
But Parker seemed to know early on that football is where Matt needed to be.
“Parker really believed in him,” said Paul Overly, Parker’s father.
When Matt was a senior at Orem High, Parker convinced his football coach to let Matt on the field as a kicker.
“I remember sitting in these stands right here,” Overly said. “My wife and I going ‘wow!’ You know Matt Gay was kicking kickoffs clear across the track.”
Still, Matt stuck with soccer and after high school, went on to play for Utah Valley University. But Parker was persistent.
“He said, ‘Matt, I’m going to be your agent in the NFL,” Overly remembers his son saying to Matt.
“You need to stop playing soccer and go kick for the University of Utah. And Parker was serious.”
His encouragement for Matt to achieve his potential continued until April 17, 2017. Parker and Matt were together at a restaurant for someone’s birthday party before they split up.
Parker was later killed in a head-on collision in Provo Canyon. Overly said two months later, Matt followed his friend’s advice and went to try out for the U.’s football team.
In his first game as a walk-on, Overly said Matt wore Parker’s initials. He didn’t expect to play but Overly said coach Kyle Whittingham put him in.
Matt later told the Overly’s over dinner that he was terrified. But, he said, “I felt Parker’s presence and I suddenly went from terrified to Parker encouraging me to stay calm.”
Matt went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then the Los Angeles Rams, where he kicked the winning field goal to beat the Buccaneers and take his team to the NFC championship.
Through it all, Overly says the wristband has always been there.
“This story brings a lot of satisfaction for my wife Jana, losing our son,” Overly said.
When KSL asked to interview Overly he sent Matt a text, letting him know. He said Matt Replied within seconds with this message:
“It is just what it is. I like to keep him with me through it all. He pushed me to play football and I just want to keep him with me.”
Overly says the wristband is not only about his son. It’s about every person who has been there for Matt and encouraged him along the way.
“We run across people every day that need words of encouragement,” he said.
“Parker was that person to Matt at different times in his life. It’s a lesson to all of us that sometimes people just need a smile or a few kind words. And really that’s the story.”
The Super Bowl airs on KSL Sunday with the pre-game coverage starting at 11 a.m.
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