The Temple University football program signed a player from Milford Academy who was expected to make an immediate impact in 2012.
His name was Montrell Dobbs.
The running back had rushed for 1,366 yards and 20 touchdowns at Milford. He was expected to usher in the post-Bernard Pierce era but he never played for the Owls.
Temple signed another player out of Milford that year. His name was Tyler Matakevich.
All Matakevich has done is put together one of the greatest careers for a Temple football player in the history of the program.
This season, he won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski awards as college football’s best player this season and has been a consenus first-team All-American. He became the seventh player in FBS history to record 100 tackles all four seasons.
Not bad for a player who was initially viewed as a backup for Nate D. Smith at middle linebacker.
Matakevich has played with a chip on his shoulder after being lightly recruited out of high school and receiving only slightly more interest after his year at Milford.
Still he admitted he never envisioned what this season has become, receiving a constant stream of national honors as his career winds down.
“You always dream about that stuff, but I’ve just been blessed and grateful to play raound with great players and luckily just having some great years,” said Matakevich. “It’s been something special, a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win the Bednarik and Nagurski awards, to go out to California for the LOTT award. It’s just surreal. I wish I could have brought all the other guys with me just to experience it."
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said if Matakevich had come along a few years later, he might not have even been recruited by the Owls as his 40 time didn’t match what they currently look for in a linebacker. But Rhule, then an assistant for Steve Addazio, saw something he liked on a recruiting trip and Matakevich became an Owl.
He’s spent the last four years in the weight room and on the football field justifying Rhule’s faith in him.
St. Joseph’s men’s basketball coach Phil Martelli started his post-game press conference after a recent game against the Owls by praising coach Matt Rhule for making Temple football relevant, which he admitted he thought he would never see in his lifetime.
But he could have gone on to thank Matakevich, who as a player has brought a positive spotlight on the program and has done as much as anyone to help Temple to a 10-3 season that could end on Tuesday night with a school record 11th win against Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The Owls beat Penn State and led Notre Dame late in the fourth quarter in a nationallty-televised game that brought ESPN’s College GameDay to Philadelphia.
Rhule said any recruit who isn’t convinced Temple football is big-time after this year has no valid reason not to believe so. With Matakevich picking off multiple national awards, that feeling has grown even more.
Matakevich will play his final game as a Temple football player on Tuesday night. He will be sorely missed but he will have left a lasting legacy from his four years in Philadelphia.
“I hope all these young guys and incoming freshman see a guy from Temple can do something special,” said Matakevich. “I don’t think people see Temple as a football school. People overlook us all the time. But this is where I’ve been the last four years. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the country. I truly mean that.”