VandyNation Interview: Matthew Tant

VandyNation talked to running back Matthew Tant, an impressive-looking freshman from Pegram, Tennessee, whom many observers feel could contribute to the Commodores in this, his first year on campus.

VandyNation: You're brand new to college life and dorm life and all that...  are they treating you OK?  Are they feeding you OK?

Matthew: (Laughing) We've had a LOT of food.  Actually it's even too much even for a lineman to handle.  I can't really handle it.  The older guys are kind of hard on us because we're freshmen... we have to be their little... maids, I guess you could call it.

VN: So they're not really treating you like a human being just yet?

Matthew: Not at all (laugh).  That comes with the package of being a freshman. But we're really starting to bond as a team.  They still make us do certain things, but we're really starting to get close now.

VN: I'd like you to try to put into words what these first two weeks have been like for you, and some of the adjustments you've had to make.

Matthew: Getting up early is the biggest adjustment I've had to make.  During the summer I slept until about 1:00 in the afternoon, before I got up and ran and lifted weights.  Here, we have to get up at 5:30 every morning to the sound of banging pans, which is not especially pleasant.  Going from being a high school standout to the lowest on the totem pole is really hard.

VN: It wasn't such a big transition from high school for you as it wass for some of the other guys, right, since you went to high school here in town, and had a brother who went to Vanderbilt?

Matthew: Yeah, because of my brother I've been hanging out here for about 3 years now.  I was friends with a lot of players before I even got here.  I kind of knew what it was going to be like, so it was easy to make that transition.

VN: You committed really early, even before your senior year started.  Was the decision to sign with Vanderbilt pretty much a slam-dunk since Jason was here, or did you seriously think about some other places too?

Matthew: I thought about other places, because Vanderbilt really didn't use a fullback that much.  But then, this school was 20 minutes down the road.  And my brother went here... that was the biggest factor, playing with my brother.  And I loved all the coaches and players.  It was a great atmosphere, and I figured I could make the adjustment from fullback to tailback.

VN: In high school you played running back, but you were pretty much a terror on defense too, weren't you?

Matthew:  My freshman and sophomore year I started at fullback.  Then my junior year I played some at defensive end, and my senior year I played linebacker.  I played pretty much the whole game and never came out.  I did have quite a few tackles.

VN: When the coaches started to recruit you, did you tell them, "I want to play offense", or "I want to play defense", or did you say "I'll play anywhere"?

Matthew: Before I committed here, I knew they were looking at me as a running back.  And that was fine, that was what I wanted to play.  I'm a natural at linebacker, but running back is my favorite.

VN: Was there ever any talk of using you on the defensive side?

Matthew:  Coach [Dennis] Harrison was the one who recruited me.  He said that they could use me at running back, H-Back, linebacker... almost anywhere.  So I was pretty happy with that.

VN: This summer you were working out with a lot of the team in the 7-on-7 drills.  Tell me what that was like.

Matthew: I'm just now picking up the offense full-steam.  This summer in 7-on-7 they were kind of feeding me the plays as I went.  They'd just tell me, run here, run there.  It was a big adjustment, because it was very fast-paced.  We were running some no-huddle, and I'm not used to that.  But it was a good experience.  It got my foot in the door to the offense.

VN: But they can't really start teaching you until you're on campus, right?  Or do the coaches send you stuff during the summer that you're supposed to be reading?

Matthew: They let me know that people were going to be helping me out.   It was my option to come over here for 7-on-7 drills.  They never told me I had to.

VN: But then that starts very intensively when you get on campus, right?

Matthew: Right.  The day we reported we just started cramming, learning the offense.

VN: Do you have homework at nights now?  Do you have to go home and study the playbook?

Matthew: Well, we have meetings until about 9:30, 10:00 at night.  After we eat, we stay in meetings, and then it's usually time to go to bed.  There's not much free time.

VN: What do they tell you up front about the possibility that some of you freshmen are going to redshirt and some won't?  How did they approach it with you?

Matthew: Basically they told us that, coming into camp, everybody's even.  It's a blank slate.  It's all about competition, and whoever learns it and does the best is going to play.

VN: Everyone that has seen you has remarked on how well-built you are physically... that you have a body built for college already as a freshmen.  Talk about what it takes to get into that kind of shape.

Matthew: I've been working out since I was 13-14 years old.  It takes a lot of commitment, good diet, and many hours spent working that other people aren't working.

VN: Tell me about how they're using you in the offense.  You're in the running back rotation... are you getting reps in practice?

Matthew: Right now I'm the fifth-string running back.  Then in goal-line situations they're trying to work me in at fullback.  So I'm trying to learn the fullback position now in the goal-line and short-yardage offense.

VN: So you would be the blocking back in a two-back set?

Matthew: In a two-back set I'd be the fullback.  But most of the time I'd be playing tailback, and I hope I'll be able to play some.

VN: How about special teams?

Matthew: I'm on all the special teams right now... I mean, I'm not starting, but I'm working in on all of them.

VN: Have the upperclassmen been good to you?  Have they made you stand up on a table and sing a song or anything?

Matthew: Well, we've had a few little get-togethers that weren't so pleasant.  Other than that, we've had freshman skits, which were really fun... you had to do it in front of the whole team.  They make us clean up after them, and they make fun of us ALL the time.

VN: But they do some things that help you bond with the team, right?

Matthew: They make us feel part of the team by doing things that they had to do, I guess.

VN: This MTSU game... you're a Nashville guy, so I know you know what a big game this is going to be for the fans, don't you?

Matthew: Oh, definitely.  Last year when Vandy came out and lost to Miami of Ohio, it set the tempo for the season.  I think this year we've worked really hard preparing for MTSU.  We really need to win this first game-- I think it will set the tempo for the rest of this season-- so we can have a winning season this year.

VN: Vanderbilt has not had a winning season since... about the year you were born... is there a feeling among you guys that this is going to be the year to change all that?

Matthew: Well, none of us are making any predictions, but we are really confident in ourselves right now.  We've been practicing really hard, and we're practicing for MTSU right now.  After that, we'll see how things go.

VN: Good luck this year... I think most fans can't wait to see what you can do when you get your hands on the football.

Matthew: There are some really good running backs ahead of me.  Ray [Perkins] is there, and he's Top Stories