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Whenever Bellarmine senior tight end/linebacker Will Matlack suits up, all he can think about is whatever he can do to make those around him successful.
Matlack is focused on pouring everything he’s got into every single play. He’s focused on winning every single rep in practice, every single play in the game and every single game.
And he’s hoping to let it all someday lead to playing college football.
“You don’t want to let your brothers down because they’re not going to let you down, just putting my all out there every play and pushing my brothers next to me to be successful,” Matlack said. “Championships are great, but honestly you just want to go out on the field and play as best as you can every single play and hope that that play gets you to that championship, so I think being out there with my brothers and my teammates is really what motivates me.
“Along with personal goals I want to be able to play this game as long as I can, and so obviously that plays into the college factor of I want to play as well as I can now so that I can keep playing.”
That confidence and drive to reach the next level and understanding that anything was attainable all happened for Matlack when he was an eighth grader.
In what was a tough year in Pop Warner – his team had around 17 players – Matlack found a home defensively at defensive end. Then his coach put him in the all-star game.
From there, Matlack also added the tight end position to his repertoire – a spot he had never played before but one his coach at the time knew he could also excel in immediately.
“I think it was him and his belief in me, willing to trust me and really coach me and put the work in with me that kind of gave me this hope of maybe I can play this game for a long time, not just for the next four years,” Matlack said. “Maybe I can keep playing after that.”
His coaches’ words were proven to be true, as the college interest – and a college commitment this past week – eventually came Matlack’s way.
Matlack committed to MacAlester College in Minnesota, a Division III school, which was a moment that signified all of the work he’s delivered on and off the field in his career.
While visiting MacAlester, Matlack started chomping at the bit even more for this upcoming season, which is also the beginning of a new era for Bellarmine, as the program welcomed first-year varsity head coach Jalal Beauchman and his assistants to take over the reins.
Under Beauchman, Bellarmine is transitioning to more of a college-style scheme offensively – something that should provide more film and opportunities for Matlack and fellow college recruit/tight end Griffin Waiss to showcase their pass-catching abilities.
In that MacAlester visit, Matlack remembers sitting in the offensive meeting while his father sat in the defensive meeting. They were blown away by how the program was run, how they were relaying information to players and how they were going through hand signals.
“Then a couple months later we get the new coaches and we start basically going over the same things, similar offense, and obviously that’s only for one particular college that I’m looking at, but just the kind of focus that they have of high tempo,” Matlack said. “We’re not huddling up, we’re going, we’re going, we’re going. We’re running these fast. We’re getting the ball to everyone. We’re spreading everything out and super high intensity.
“I think that’s all being echoed here at our program now, which is going to help us. It’s going to help the rest of the kids coming up through this program throughout the next couple years that we want to go play in college.”
Matlack, who has added 20 pounds since last season and who built a home gym with the help of defensive coordinator Joe Gigantino, is eager for his one last hurrah with the senior class before they head off to college.
The last couple of seasons for Matlack and Bellarmine haven’t featured as much winning as they would have liked, going a combined 5-16 overall, so he wants to come back and enjoy every moment this year while they pursue a return to Bellarmine’s glory days of winning championships.
“It’s really tough to go out there and play the sport that you love and be sad at the end of the game or upset or not motivated to play another game at the end of these games,” Matlack said. “I think we’re all hoping for a season where even if you lose a game, you come off that field and you’re saying, ‘Man, I can’t wait for practice on Monday. I just can’t wait to get back out there on the field. I don’t care if my body is tired. I’m going to go out on Saturday and get some work in on Saturday. I’m going to get some more work in on Sunday.’
“I think that feeling of being happy after games and being motivated after games is something that has been missing these last couple years, and I think that’s what we’re looking for this year.”
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