There are always a few "bigguns" floating around the prep-ranks in Nebraska . You know, corn-fed crushers who are big, tough and usually find themselves playing both ways on the line for schools sprinkled around the state. Consider Matt Sterup one of the better ones in the state. Along with Creighton Prep's John Lechner, you have two of the bigger prospects for the in-state class of 2009.
Lechner stands 6-6 and weighs 320 pounds and Sterup goes 275 at the same height. Matt said that because of basketball, he has to drop weight, but expects that his weight will be climbing back up once the basketball season finishes this up-coming weekend as his 20-2 Bluehawk team heads to Lincoln for the Class C state basketball tournament.
And don't let anyone tell you size doesn't matter when it comes to playing in the trenches. Sterup sees the obvious advantages. "It just gives you confidence to be able to do a lot for your team when you have a real advantage over them, physically," he said.
It prompted a memory for Sterup, where his size and the confidence was illustrated quite well. "It still sticks in my mind, but we were playing Pierce, and except for one guy, I think they didn't have anyone who played on the line both ways. On our team, pretty much all of us did. So, they were bringing in fresh legs all the time," Matt said. "It was fourth and two, our coach calls a timeout and asks us what we wanted to do. I just said give (Justin) Small the ball and have him run right off my butt.
"We got the first down and I still remember the excitement in just getting it done in a crucial situation."
Small is another who will be garnering Division 1-A attention for the 2009 year, the 6-2, 230 two-way star ranking sixth on our "Dirty Dozen", while Sterup currently ranks 4th. Unfortunately for the dynamic duo, they are amongst a small group of returning starters, many of the key players being lost to graduation.
The challenge ahead is daunting, but it's a welcome one as has been the recruiting attention he's received as a byproduct of not just his size, but his athleticism.
Over the last off-season, Matt attended a few camps, including Nebraska , Kansas and Kansas State . At the Wildcat-camp, Sterup posted his best 40-time, running a 5.40. Combine that with almost 300 lbs. on the bench, almost 500 on the squat, you have the building blocks of a physically imposing player. But all that was what Sterup considered just the beginning. "It's all just to get bigger, faster and stronger, so I can help my team win, but it's nice to get some schools looking your way," he said. "This year I hope to camp at Iowa , Iowa State , Nebraska , Kansas and maybe a couple of more. And I will attend a combine in Ohio , too."
The letters have already been coming in for Sterup, all of the schools mentioned above having showed interest, but you can throw on Colorado , Colorado State, Michigan , Texas , Florida State and Vanderbilt on there as well. It's a nice start to a much-anticipated recruiting season.
As far as looking east toward Lincoln and wondering if Nebraska will come through as they seem to have with increased intensity for Nebraska kids since Bo Pelini and company have arrived, Matt keeps things pretty even keel. "Growing up in this state, you always thought about what it would like to play there. I have been to games and you think about what it would be like to play in front of your home-state crowd," he said. "It's a dream for most, because that's what we all grow up thinking about. But there are other schools out there, too."
Many kids within the state have only heard about Bo Pelini's demeanor and how he relates to young men. They talk about his intensity, but also about how much of a player's coach he is. When Nebraska held their first "junior day" this last month, Matt said he got to see and feel that in person, when he heard coach Pelini speak, and then afterward that night for a basketball game, got to talk to him on a more personal level. "At junior day, all the coaches were there and coach Pelini spoke to us about what he expects and how everyone would be given a fair shot at their chance to play at Nebraska ," Sterup said. "You could just feel the intensity when he spoke.
"But I actually sat right behind him during the basketball game and talked to him during it, and he's a really down-to-earth-type person. It's kind of interesting, but it's nice to know that when he gets off that field, he's someone you really think you can talk to or someone who isn't just a coach. He's like that, I think."
Having that personal involvement with Nebraska 's new head coach is obviously something Sterup will keep in his mind for the future. The attention he's getting will no doubt increase, and there could easily be a few offers coming as well. But much like the small-town Midwestern mind-set, Matt said he isn't worrying about what he can't control. He's only going to work on those things he can and let everyone else sort itself out. "My goal is just to do the best I can and be the best player I can be. I guess we'll see how everything else goes," he said. "It's nice to have the attention I have now, but I'm going to work hard to see just what kind of opportunities there are.
"Just going to college is a great opportunity, but being able to go to
college and play football, it's hard to ask for more than that. I'm just excited
for the future."
Keep peeled to Big Red Report as we will bring you more on Sterup, his teammate, Small, and we'll follow them throughout the off-season and the season as well.