Matt Zubyk's Stanford Switch: In His Words

Matt Zubyk committed in late June to a new and exciting offer from Virginia. Then in July Stanford offered a scholarship to the 6'4" 190 San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker School senior,'s #1-ranked punter in the nation. On Wednesday Zubyk changed his commitment to the Cardinal. The prized punter explained his story to us Friday night, which we present for you here, entirely in his words.

"I first committed to the University of Virginia.  At the time, Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and the rest of the staff at Stanford weren't quite sure what was going to happen with their kicking situation, so they were more in search of kind of a combo guy.  I'm more a straight punter.  I can kick field goals and kickoffs, but maybe not at a collegiate level.  They were more interested then in a combo guy, however, they made the decision to make one of their guys a kicker.  Then they offered me a scholarship."

"Before that, there was the time when I visited Stanford at their camp.  The week after that, I went up to Virginia.  They really impressed me.  They are really fantastic guys on that coaching staff.  I have so much respect for them.  They offered me a scholarship.  I felt like something wouldn't come out of my time at Stanford because they weren't looking for a straight punter, so I decided to take the next best thing, which was an amazing opportunity to go to an amazing university with strong academics in what I was looking for - business.  I took that opportunity, and I had no regrets at the time.  However, Stanford was still probably my number one choice."

"I had stayed in contact, with some small talk with Coach [D.J.] Durkin.  About three weeks ago, they made a decision that they were going to offer me a scholarship and would love to have me there.  To pass up the opportunity to attend the University of Virginia is hard to do.  I was agonizing over the decision of whether to break my loyalty to the University of Virginia, which is really tough to do to a program which you have so much respect and where you made your original decision to commit.  I talked to my parents and talked to everybody because it's such a hard decision to make.  Finally I came upon the belief that it wouldn't be fair to the University of Virginia if you went there half-heartedly.  Not to say anything bad about the University of Virginia because I have a lot of respect for them, but if I didn't decommit from Virginia, then I would have attended the university with the other option thinking, 'What if this had happened?  What if I had attended Stanford?'  That's hard.  And that's not fair to the players or coaches at the University of Virginia, if you go there half-heartedly because you might not be the same player they expect you to be.  That wasn't fair for them, and maybe it wasn't fair for my family and myself."

"Obviously, it's nice to be closer to home, being a California guy growing up in San Diego.  It was tough.  It was really tough, and it took me a long time to come to this decision.  But I did make the decision to decommit from UVA and go to Stanford.  I'm really excited about my opportunity for Stanford.  I just felt bad about the whole decommitting thing with Virginia because those guys are such great guys.  But the decision is the decision.  The whole recruiting process is kind of cutthroat, and it's unfortunate that it's that way.  But I guess it has to be."

"I was in contact with Coach Durkin and Coach [Lance] Anderson.  I started getting really serious about decommitting about a week ago.  I told them, 'Hey, keep this quiet because it's not fair to Virginia.  I think I'm probably going to commit to you guys.  At the same time, if I end this with Virginia, it needs to be ended in a professional manner and a respectful manner.'  I made the phone call two days ago, which was a tough phone call to make.  I did actually go through with the decommitment.  I called Stanford after that and told them that I was coming to Stanford."

"It's crazy.  From the beginning, I've been so thankful that I have the most fantastic family in the world and a fantastic punting coach.  To have that support system and to have their advice throughout this process... it helps to have people who have been around the block.  To have that support is fantastic, and it's meant the world to me.  My coach, his name is Lance Ortega.  He's a great guy, a fantastic guy, who has put a lot of kids into Division I programs and has a good reputation.  He told something like, 'It's harder to get a scholarship to be a punter than to get into Julliard,' or some ridiculous stat like that.  I guess that kind of got the message across that it really is difficult for kickers and punters to get a scholarship.  There are tons of kickers, and there are all the soccer players out there, which kind of makes the competition harder.  But I'm thankful for the position I'm in because I've had all the opportunities to get me to where I wanted to be."

"It's crazy to be in this situation.  It's crazy because it's unexpected.  You watch college football games when you're a kid, and obviously you're a fan but you never expect it to happen to yourself.  It ended up happening, and it was a wild ride.  It still is.  I just sort of ended this right now.  It's been nuts because of how I explained my original commitment to the University of Virginia and now with my commitment to Stanford.  There are a lot of mixed messages that get sent along the way, from both players and coaches.  I find the recruiting process to be unfair to the universities because players obviously have their own interests at heart than the universities'.  I think it's crazy for them, too.  This whole process has been wild, but I guess it's over now."

"I went to camps at Northwestern, then USC, then Stanford and Virginia.  I've been lucky throughout this process because I have a talent like this that you can turn into something else.  What I was shooting for was a great academic university that will be able to open doors later in life for a job, rather than just the best football program, which I think often gets confused by certain recruits.  I've been really thankful for my situation because Northwestern, Virginia and Stanford are all just fantastic schools.  There were a couple other offers, but the serious ones were really Stanford and Virginia.  It gets down to just those two.  I made the decision for Stanford, and I'm happy about my situation."

"A wrench kind of got thrown into everybody's plans who were interested in me, when I committed to the University of Virginia.  People don't necessarily want to go after a kid who is already committed.  I guess everybody got mixed messages from that.  I was truthful in my commitment then.  It wasn't just me getting a seat in this constant game of musical chairs.  My recruiting process wasn't supposed to happen like this.  It's awful nice, the position I'm in now, but the time when I committed to the University of Virginia was an honest commitment.  I wasn't just taking a spot, and I think that's what people thought and they backed off."

"I had offers from Harvard, Air Force, San Diego State, Navy, Virginia and Stanford."

"Going through this process, I decided to shoot for schools with fantastic academic resources, alumni, prestige and football programs.  Stanford has all of that.  They have fantastic coaches, and for the school, it doesn't get bigger for a West Coast kid than Stanford.  I guess what makes a school your dream school or anything your dream is that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you say, 'Wow.'  They might tell you something different about a different place, but as long as your heart is in one place, it's hard to make a decision to go to the other place.  I guess what makes it my dream school is obviously all of the stereotypical things about Stanford - the fantastic reputation and fantastic academics.  When people on the street hear Stanford, they say, 'Wow, that's awesome.'  It has such a great reputation, and I'll get to be a part of that.  I think that's fantastic.  It's West Coast, and the campus is beautiful.  My best friend from high school [Tyler Mabry] plays on the team, and all of the coaches were very supportive and great.  Obviously it gets back to that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you go, 'Wow.'"

"Stanford sent me an application about a week ago.  They have been really nice and really efficient about this whole process.  They have really been helpful to me, so I'm really thankful about that.  I have a 3.83 [weighted] GPA.  My SAT was a 1970."

"Obviously there is a lot of expectation.  I've been playing quarterback all my life, and obviously playing quarterback the last thing on your mind is being a punter.  You always have that expression stick in your head when you are talking to someone:  'Hey, you have just one job to do, so you better do it right.'  Obviously you have to do it right because that's what you practice.  When a certain performance is demanded of you, you had better be able to perform, or they should find someone else.  What the coaches have told me at Stanford is that they have made the decision to make another guy the kicker, so they want me to go punt for four years when I go to school in the fall of 2008.  That's what they told me.  As far as my contribution, I will try to do everything I can to live up to their expectation."

"I've really been working on consistency.  That's crucial when you're a punter.  You can't have a coach send you on the field not knowing whether you're going to give him a 20-yard or a 70-yard punt.  It's way better to have two 45-yard or 50-yard punts.  Coaches have to know what they're going to get when they send a special teamer like a punter onto the field.  Obviously you work on consistency, and you work on what the coaches tell you to do.  You're really another piece on the chess board, and you have to live up to your expectations."

"One of my strengths is my work ethic.  I can't imagine anybody else working harder than I do at the position.  I take it really seriously because of the opportunities that have been given to me.  You don't want opportunities like this, which come along once in one's lifetime.  Another strength is my ability to be realistic.  Some people always have their own interests at heart and forget to realize the real world.  You have to perform all of the time, and you have to live up to people's expectations because they brought you there for a reason.  If you don't perform and prove your reason for being there, then I don't think it's fair to them."

"I've been working with my coach, Lance Ortega, and it's fine tuning right now, which is awesome.  When you have a job to do like being a punter, you can focus and concentrate on certain aspects.  You want to make the muscle memory so that every time you go out there, you know what you're going to get.  That gives the coaches the ability to know what they're going to get, which is what they want.  Making punting and every bit of punting muscle memory is something I've been working on.  Obviously also improving my strength.  My trainer at school is a great guy, and that's added a little distance on my punting.  Improving muscle memory and strength, and getting stronger at the finger points of punting, that's what I hope to improve on this year."

"Making punting muscle memory is really crucial because you can't go out there not knowing what you're going to get.  That's bad, and that separates good players from bad players.  It obviously helps to be comfortable with every situation:  putting the ball on the right hash or left hash, as far as you can or dropping it inside the 20-yardline.  In all of those different aspects, making it muscle memory is really crucial.  Obviously strength helps because when you strengthen a muscle, all those things come together and you get stronger.  And your punts will go farther and higher.  Flexibility also helps your punts to get up higher."

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