As Temple senior linebacker Tyler Matakevichlooked out at all the candidates vying for various college football awards this past week and felt intimidated.
The same way he’s intimidated opposing offenses for four years as the main cog in the Owls’ dominant defense.
Temple head coach Matt Rhule, by his side, told him to prepare remarks in case he won, but Matakevich shrugged him off, thinking ‘there’s no way.”
And then his name was announced.
Day after day, Matakevich was honored with hardware after hardware.
“When they said my name and I stood up I said, ‘holy crap, maybe I need that piece of paper.’ It was surreal,” Matakevich said.
In addition to being placed as the middle linebacker on nearly every All-American squad there is (by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, USA Today and the Walter Camp Football Foundation to name a few), the Owls’ captain won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarikawards for being the best defensive player in the nation.
“It was something special, a once in a lifetime opportunity,” the southern Connecticut native said of his recent trips to award ceremonies across the country.”I wish all the guys could have come with me just to experience it. It was something I’ll never forget.”
Matakevichcould very well go down as the best player in Temple (or even Philadelphia college) football history.He is college football’s active leader with 481 career tackles, and is ninth all-time on the NCAA career list. In 2015,Matakevich tallied126 total tackles, and became just the seventh college football player to have four seasons over 100 tackles.
He leads all linebackersin interceptions with afive and also boasts 4.5 sacksand 15 tackles for loss.
Not bad for a kid from Temple — a team that was 2-10 just two seasons ago.
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“When they announced my name, it wasn’t just me winning the award, it was the rest of the guys.” the always humble defender said. “It was a great individual achievement but it was even bigger for Temple football.
“I don’t think people really see Temple University as a football school. People out on these trips were saying ‘where’s Temple?’ and you had to explain. I think that’s what makes our university so special. People overlook us all the time and I think Temple Universityis a great place for people who get overlooked to come here. That’s what myself and other individuals have done.”
Matakevich sat out his first few games as a freshman but once he was put in his first game, he never came out. As a senior captain, he’s led the Owls to a banner year. They’ll face Toledo in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl with a chance to get their 11thwin, a team record.
But Matakevichis like any other college senior, counting down the days until he graduates and holding on to every shred of college life he can as the end approaches.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the last few games,” the linebacker said in a press conference Tuesday,”It’s coming by fast. The next chapter of your life is knocking at the door but you have to stay focused. I only get to wear the Cherry and White one more time. As soon as the game is over I’ll have to figure out what the heck I’m going to do next.”
Matakevich is being scouted by pro teams and is a shoe-in to be drafted. He’s currently listed on most draft boards as a top 100 pick and the No. 3 player at his position. But even when he’s playing on Sundays, his heart will remain with the Owls.
“[I hope to be remembered as] one of those seniors who changed the program,” Matakevich said of the Owls, who were nationally ranked for much of the 2015 season.”Myself and the senior class have made an impact on Temple University, especially Temple football. We are part of their turning point and I hope that’s something that sticks with us.”