'08 Unwrapped: Matt Zubyk

An underclassman under center takes his lumps and learns the position with the goal of growing into that most revered man in high school football: the senior quarterback. Matt Zubyk is today giving that all up. Why? The San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker School standout is a top punter recruit who gave up his body for the Lancers' offense last fall, now focusing on his kicking craft in 2007.

If you watched film of San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker School last year to get a glimpse at signee Tyler Mabry or recruit Gino Gordon in the senior class, you may have seen a 6'4" 185-pound junior on Cardinal radar in the Class of 2008.  He played quarterback for the Lancers in addition to punting.  Matt Zubyk knows that his meal ticket for college will be punched by his leg rather than his arm, and that knowledge coupled with an injury during the 2006 season have him focused on just punting and field goals in 2007.  There will be no more action under center.

"Certainly for a 17-year-old kid in high school, you want to be in the game as much as you can.  Concentrating on punting this year I think will help my punting," Zubyk explains.  "I got a concussion and decided not to risk it medically.  That could affect my chances to go to college.  I definitely it could help my punting, just focusing on one thing this year."

The concussion came while playing offense, and it kept Zubyk out of action for the late stretch run of the season in November.

"A guy came off unblocked.  It was actually a really nice pass for like 40 yards, but I ended up getting hit on the side of the head and went down," he describes.  "But I'm okay.  That's all cleared up now."

Despite the double duty, it was a strong season for Zubyk punting the ball.  He booted 25 punts for 1109 yards, a 44.4-yard average.  Zubyk dropped nine inside the 20-yardline.

"I think my strength is definitely my work ethic," he opines.  "When I started punting three years ago, I actually found it by accident.  My coach gave me a ball and said that the JV team needed a punter.  I guess I kind of found a hidden little talent.  As a punter, I work as hard as anybody.  My leg swing and the power I have behind the ball classify me I think as a top punter recruit.

"I'm working on my strength in the weight room and my flexibility," Zubyk continues.  "I stretch everyday, and I've been working on that for a while now.  I think that's the biggest thing as a punter.  My leg swing is now higher, which helps to turn the ball over.  It helps with the power and kicking the ball farther, which is the whole goal.  I've definitely seen some improvements."

"Also, I think it's about consistency," he adds.  "A lot of coaches fall in love with a guy who can kick a 70-yard punt or something, but then they neglect to realize that he can also be inconsistent and kick a 20-yard punt the next time.  I think it's better to have a punter who can kick two 45-yard punts rather than a 70-yard and a 20-yard punt.  I think consistency is a big thing."

The "big" question for a 6'4" punter is whether that size is such a good thing.  He can generate a big leg swing, but the longer wind-up can potentially slow down the get-off time.  Zubyk feels that good mechanics are more important than a few inches of height.

"As long as you get your front foot down really quickly, I don't think there really is much of a difference between a guy who is 5'11" versus me and guys who are 6'4"," he says.  "As long as you make your steps short and fast, I think there isn't that much of a difference."

Zubyk has picked up early scholarship offers from Navy and Air Force but is looking for more.

"Everybody who goes there has their tuition paid for," he notes.  "There are definitely a lot of schools interested in me, but it's kind of early right now so I'm not sure how far each coach is going to take it and whether they're going to extend offers to me...  My favorites right now would probably be Stanford, Oregon, Northwestern, Harvard, Yale.  I'm not sure about USC, who is recruiting me.  They don't know yet.  They were in talking with Coach Morrison, but I didn't really have a chance to discuss the situation with them."

A big step forward Zubyk will take with his prospective suitors will come this summer when he participates in their camps and can be worked out by the coaching staffs.  He is still setting those camp plans but says he is likely to attend Stanford, Oregon, Northwestern and Virginia camps at a minimum.

Currently, the San Diego student-athlete is still finishing his junior year of classes at Francis Parker School, where he carries a 3.81 GPA.  Zubyk has already scored a 1970 on his SAT.  His academics will give him a breadth of options, for which familial factors fortunately have given him a head start on exploring.

"My sister is at Notre Dame right now.  She's a freshman.  Three years ago, we had a bunch of college tours.  I think we saw something like 42 colleges across America.  She couldn't make up her mind and had to see everywhere," the brother laughs.  "That's okay, though, because I got to see all the campuses.  Stanford was beautiful up in Northern California.  It's a fantastic place.  The athletics, the prestige, the academics - it's really kind of unmatched."

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