Final Chapter

Matt Roth entertained the Big Ten media at the conference function in Chicago this week with his throwback personality. The Hawkeye DE talked about his father teaching him about hard work, getting an early lesson from Steinbach and Gallery, childhood battles with his brother, his possible NFL future and much more in this premium Q&A.

Do you guys feel like as a defense you have to carry this team for a while until the offense matures?

I wouldn't say carry, but we're going to have to play well. They might have some ups and downs. We're going to have to make sure that we can hold them when we're not scoring. They'll get things going pretty fast.

Do you have your throwback uniform?

Yeah. My mom ordered it. She's going to be getting it through the mail.

Is this team ready for the transition from hunter to hunted?

Yeah. We're definitely ready. I don't the the coaches or the players buy into the rankings. Two years ago, I don't even think we were ranked. We were tied with Ohio State for Big ten Champions. So, you've got to take it with a grain of salt, good or bad. The bottom line is that you've got to play those games.

Coach has voiced some concern that some of the younger players might take winning for granted because they didn't go through some of the lean years here. Do you sense that these guys are understanding the hard work that goes into being successful?

Yeah. I think that they realize it. They might take it for granted. I wasn't here on any losing teams either. You've just got to watch the seniors and watch how they work. As long as those guys can find a few guys to relate to on the team who put them to work and are successful on the field, they'll be all right. We had our Bruce Nelsons, Eric Steinbachs, Robert Gallerys, Bob Sanders. You just watched those guys and learned.

Nobody has really bought into that we were good last year so we're going to be good this year mentality. Coach Ferentz does a good job of keeping us humble and reminding us of the times when it wasn't so good at Iowa.

What does the leadership role mean to you and how do you go about being a leader?

It means a lot that guys are looking up to me. I try to lead by example. I'm not a very vocal guy as far as trying to play that coach role. As far as getting guys motivated or getting guys excited about practice or a game, that's what I like to do. I try to stay away from the preaching. But, I'll have fun out there with them.

What's your biggest weakness?

I don't know. I don't like to think about that. It's not even in my thought process.

Coming into the season, what did you think you needed to do to make yourself better from a year ago?

To really get into the game plan and know exactly what we as a team and other positions were doing. Last year, going into the bowl game I really getting that month of practice and just taking in other positions and getting to know where everyone fits helped a lot. It just clicked.

What does it say to you that Coach Ferentz brought two defensive linemen to Chicago?

Coach likes to bring seniors to these events. It just worked out that way. Babineaux has been playing for a while. I've been playing for a while. He could have asily brought other players. We're the most experienced seniors on the defense.

You didn't want to switch from linebacker to defensive line, did you?

I didn't want to do it for a whole year and a half, pretty much. Then Coach Parker kind of talked me into it. I talked myself into it, actually. They wanted me to be a defensive lineman right when I came into camp.They asked me if I wanted to move. I refused. Norm Parker tried to have long walks and talks with me. I wasn't buying it. It took about a year, year and a half.

What are long walks with Norm like?

(Laughs) They're quite amusing.

The offensive line was real solid when you made the switch. Did any of those guys kick your butt in practice?

When I first started, I was getting double teamed by Steinbach and Gallery and I think even Clark jumped in there once and just drilled me. I jumped up right out of my stance like a deer caught in the headlights. I didn't know how good those guys were or were going to be. Day by day, I started to pick it up and got better.

Getting thrown in with guys like Steinbach and Gallery, I was like, "I don't know if I want to do this?" I need to put on another 30 or 40 pounds. It all worked out. And Coach Aiken teaches great technique.

You have the reputation of someone whose motor never stops. Where does that come from?

I probably get it from my dad. He works construction. If I wanted a Slushee or a candy bar, I had to work like an hour in backyard. He'd be counting out nickles and dimes I'd owe him for work. He taught me at an early age about hard work and discipline.

Did your older brother help toughen you up?

Oh yeah. We used to go at it. There were broken walls, furniture, pool sticks, cabinets, doors.

Did you play with a lot of older kids in your neighborhood?

Oh yeah. We probably had 30 or 40 kids playing football on any given day. There was no age limit. So, if you wanted to hop in, you had to play against 15 and 16 year olds when you were like eight or 10.

Are glad that you played as a true freshman?

I don't look back at all. I had a lot, and I think that it probably fit me best getting out; getting away from the dorms on Fridays and Saturdays; getting into the routine and getting some experience; getting me ready for the next year as far as making me hungry and knowing what Big Ten college football is all about. I think a lot of guys take it for granted. Some of the younger guys, you question whether they know how tough and how long of a road that it is to be successful. I got to learn that right away.

Who do you compete or talk trash with now that Howard is gone?

(Laughs) Oh, there are guys. We've got Babineaux and D-Rob. We have fun. Luebke.

How much weight have you put on since you were a freshman?

I think that I've probably put on 20, 25 pounds. I've gotten a lot bigger.

What do you are you at now?

270, 275. I think that I came in at 240, 245.

What's your most recent 40 time?

I ran like a 4.7. But when I get my form down, it will go down a lot.

What's the thing that to you has helped Coach Ferentz turn this program around?

He doesn't take anything for granted. He doesn't take anyone lightly. Every day when you go in you know it's business. He's got the staff and the guys around him that are all on the same page. That helps out a lot because you know that you're going to work hard and he's going to work hard for you.

Do you have to be reminded to tone it down a notch or two at times in practice?

Coach Ferentz tells me to lighten up once in a while when we're in the two-minute drills and stuff and we got no pads on. It's just my competitive nature. I don't want anyone to get the best of me. So, I try to go as hard and as fast as I can at all times. And it would be embarrassing to get put on my can and face my (brother and father) after a game. They'll let me know. They'll give me an ear-full.

If things work out well for the team, and in turn for you this season, do you see yourself playing in teh NFL?

Yeah. Oh definitely. That would be the ultimate dream. I think it wil lbe a realistic dream if I stay healthy and keep improving and hitting the weights and gaining speed with Doyle.

What position do you see yourself at?

Oh, I'd have to be a DE. I don't think I could get back to that running around anymore at that linebacker. I kind of got used to DE - that short 10 yards. That's perfect for me.

Have you heard any feedback from NFL scouts?

You get a lot of feedback from scouts and agents and all of that. But when next year comes and the season is over if that's what my route is, I'll take it. I'm not thinking or worrying about any of that stuff right now. I'm just worried about the season and winning some games.

How are you doing in school?

I'm on track to graduate. I have about a 2.5 (GPA). As long as I keep my nose in the books, I'll be on track to graduate.

What is your major?

Health Studies.

Why has this coaching staff gotten the reputation as one that is strong in taching the game?

They drill the basics and fundamentals every day, every snap, every rep, no matter if you're fourth string, fifth string or a starter. It keeps guys learning and keeping them up to date on their fundamentals. They command hard work out of us. we give it to them.

Are you going to be wearing a leather helmet during the throwback game?

I wish.

Would you liked to have played during the leather helmet days?

I don't know. It was more like rugby back then. It would have been fun, don't get me wrong. But I like it now. I think you get more impact hits. They close-lined people. They didn't tackle. (laughs)

Coach Ferentz compared you to Bob Sanders in the way that you play the game. How do you feel about that?

That's a great compliment because Bob is an awesome player, an awesome athlete. It's a great honor to be compared to him.


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