A Season Of Change

It has been an offseason of change for Matt Tarullo.

Matt Tarullo

First, he changed positions from right guard to center when the team needed to fill the vacancy left after Nick Romeo graduated. His number 75 jersey has changed since last season to include the captain's "C" on his chest, taking over increased responsibilities as one of the senior leaders. But, while things surrounding him have changed, Tarullo has vowed to not let them change him.

"I promised myself I'm not going to change," Tarullo said. "Some guys have changed (after being named captain), but I told myself I'm not going to be any different than I was before."

That likely means you will still see Tarullo be the first to lead the Orange onto the field before each game, his 6-foot 5-inch, 325-pound frame jumping and waving his arms in the air. Whether he's barking out calls at the line of scrimmage, congratulating a teammate, or even getting in a teammate's face, Tarullo expects to exhibit a "more amplified version" of his emotional self. Tarullo says part of being a captain is being vocal, even if it risks rubbing people the wrong way.

"Sometimes we're gonna scuffle," Tarullo said. "Sometimes you need to get in someone's face. But guys know when they screw up. So sometimes you need to take them aside and tell them "It's OK, get ‘em the next play."

But head coach Paul Pasqualoni thinks Tarullo's communication skills make him a good choice for captain.

"He's (Tarullo) a very natural leader," Pasqualoni says. "He's a great leader and a great communicator. He's probably more natural at center than he was at guard because of his leadership and his ability to make a lot of calls."

A lot of the hard work Tarullo has done this offseason has been dedicated to learning a new position. Tarullo started all 25 games the past two seasons at guard. And while he may only be moving over three feet to the center position, he is stepping into a whole new world. He has entered a world of quarterback/lineman relationships the likes of which he has never experienced.

Last year at guard, he was able to block defenders using both hands. But this year, Tarullo has learned to deliver snaps to his quarterback with his right hand and still ward off defenders with his left hand, a skill unique to the center position. Tarullo admits it has been difficult learning new techniques, but he feels he has started to get into a rhythm. Former Syracuse center and Tarullo's good friend, Nick Romeo, has kept in touch with Tarullo to help him along the way. Tarullo says Romeo has warned him of some of the things that he can expect over time.

"He (Romeo) told me how much you have to be willing to sacrifice," Tarullo said. "He told me how much more bending I'll have to do (than I would at guard) and how sore my knees will be from it."

Those sacrifices will be made in part to help one of the nation's top running backs. Senior Walter Reyes has rushed for over 2400 yards and 37 rushing touchdowns the past two seasons with Tarullo serving as one of the men in the trenches. The humble Reyes will be the first to admit people like Tarullo have helped him achieve his personal success.

"You can't forget about my offensive linemen, guys that block for me," Reyes said. "It's great when people bring up my name, but I can't do it by myself. It's more than just Walter Reyes."

It is that kind of gratitude from Reyes that Tarullo says makes it a pleasure to block for him.

"The more I like him on the field, the more I like him off the field," Tarullo says. "To watch him run like a battering ram-when he breaks a big run, you just want to run downfield with him. It's worth it and he deserves it."

Syracuse is counting on continued success from guys like Reyes and Tarullo to carry the team this year. Tarullo says the team, and the offensive line in particular, has picked up where they left off last season, when they ended their season by beating Notre Dame, 38-12, in the Carrier Dome.

"We haven't missed a beat," Tarullo says. "Right off of the Notre Dame game, we replaced our two linemen (Romeo and Kevin Sampson) and got right back to business."

However, business in the Big East has undergone a major facelift this offseason. After the departures of perennial powers Miami and Virginia Tech, as well as the addition of Connecticut, Syracuse will be right in the thick of things for the Bowl Championship Series automatic bid awarded to the conference champion. But Tarullo prefers to take things one step at a time while he looks ahead to this season.

"I don't have any real forecast for the season," Tarullo says. "I'm just going to take things game-by-game. We have Purdue first. We'll see what happens with that game and then we'll go from there."

It is that same sort of disciplined mindset that drives Tarullo off the field as well. Tarullo, a psychology major at Syracuse, had an opportunity last year to intern with the Manlius Police Department. Thanks to Reggie Terry, Syracuse Director of Football Operations and Player Development, Tarullo got to team up with the police and experience an internship in the law enforcement world.

Matt's father, Richard, used to be a police officer, and law enforcement is something that interests Matt. During his internship, Tarullo gained experience in the fields of interrogation, explosives and weapons, safety, and investigative work. He was even able to shadow a detective on the case of convicted serial kidnapper and rapist, John Jamelske. Tarullo was allowed to get an inside look at Jamelske's dungeon, where he housed the women he kidnapped. Tarullo says while the sights of Jamelske's dungeon were "spooky," the internship helped open his eyes to what else goes on around him.

"People say you learn a lot by going to college," Tarullo says. "But you learn a lot more when you get out into the real world."

But just like his mindset of the upcoming season, Tarullo is taking life one thing at a time. While he would not mind a job in law enforcement down the road, Tarullo has his sights set on a football career after college.

"I love playing football," Tarullo says. "I have dreams and goals (of playing in the NFL) that I want to try to accomplish. Maybe stuff like that (law enforcement) will come later on."

In the same way as he does with every other change in his life, Tarullo looks at his future from a "first things first's point of view." He prefers to handle each challenge as it comes to him. First, deal with a new position and the role of captain. Next, worry about the upcoming season, game-by-game. Then, worry about life after college.

In Matt Tarullo's case, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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