Stepping out of the shadows

It seemed pretty clear at the time for Matt Fountaine. As one of Washington's earliest verbal commitments for the class of 2002, it made sense. After all, Matt was Jamal Fountaine's little brother, a legacy recruit who saw Montlake as the place for him at an early age.

But now that the 5-11, 186-pound Fountaine is a full-fledged member of the same football team Jamal used to call his own, he's finding it increasingly more difficult to keep up the pace. How does he balance weight training, football conditioning, track practice and school?

"With no sleep," Matt told Dawgman.com with a laugh. "It's tiring. But hopefully it will all make us better, so that when spring ball comes around and we cut back a little on the track, we'll feel like it's nothing. We'll just be having fun, which is the goal, so when the season comes around it will be easy for us. We'll be in shape and not getting tired during the games. We'll be faster with the track and the speed workouts we've been doing.

"Hopefully what makes us tired will make us better by the time we go to Columbus, Ohio." I bet his brother has a hand in things as well.

Long gone are the times when Fountaine was the BMOC at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. Long gone are the North Coast Section titles in the 100 meters and 4x100 relay, won with times of 10.71 and 41.7 respectively. Those times have been supplanted with a 6.99 60 meter time, set back in January during Fountaine's first indoor meet of his Husky career. It's also the second-fastest time set this year by a Husky, tied with Derrick Johnson and .15 behind another true freshman - Shelton Sampson.

When the track team moves outdoors next week, Matt plans on running the 100 and the relay again. And much like his career at Bishop O'Dowd, Fountaine is looking for that edge, that something extra that gives him what he needs to compete at the highest level in football.

"I ran track in high school for confidence on the field," he said. "In my league there was a lot of passing and I played corner, so I wanted confidence in myself that I wasn't going to get beat deep. And being the fastest man in the league is just like being the fastest man around here. It gives you confidence that you might be able to make a mistake and have the catch-up speed to get there."

But there's plenty of similarities besides the confidence factor that keep Matt working his hardest in the offseason. "Track and football is the same thing when it comes to running," he said. "When you can do that, you'll run at the speed you should. That's why people can run 4.4 and still get beat deep. They aren't playing to their speed. If you run 4.5 and play to it, and you're up against a guy that can run 4.3 but plays to a 4.5, you are going to be stride for stride with them.

"When you break off the ball, it's just like coming off the blocks. It's the same body position, everything. And when you're keeping up with a receiver when they are going after the fade - it's just like the middle phase of the 60 (meter dash). It's just getting your legs up, your arms going and going stride for stride with them."

So what has he been working the most on with sprint coach Dion Miller? "Run positioning mostly," Matt said. "My body lean when I run and picking my feet and knees up. He's helping me turing it into muscle memory so when I get out on the field it will be easy. I won't have to work harder than most people to catch up. I can take my track speed and turn it over to football so it isn't wasted time. With the hard work that we've been putting in, I can tell I'm going to be faster.

"It's fun. I run track strictly for fun. I don't stress out about it. Having all the guys out here just makes it better. We're out here laughing together. And after a hard practice, if people are getting sick, we're doing it together. We're struggling and hurting together, just like we would on the football field.

"It's helping us too. We can gauge ourselves. When I'm going up against Roc, who is the fastest man in Colorado, I can gauge how he's coming off the blocks. And when I'm out here doing strides with Reggie, I can gauge how long his strides are. He's got huge strides. I know that when I'm out running with Shelton and his big lungs, how he can hold his speed forever - I can gauge myself on that too.

"It's great having people out here that are better, because it makes you work harder."

And his thoughts on the player that has improved the most this winter? "I haven't seen Roc run, but I think Reggie's improved the most," Fountaine said. "I still think Roc has everybody though."

And all the football sprinters are looking forward to that 4x100 relay later this spring, perhaps none more so than Matt. "I think there are 5 guys out there, if you include me as the fifth one, that can definitely get it done and compete with USC," he said.

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