Dux Lineman Staying Focused

Zeeland West OL Matt Forward is one of the state's best linemen not many people have heard of. He was a key ingredient in a powerful Dux running game which grinded its way to a state championship a year ago. Even with that success, Forward is staying grounded and harnessing his attention on this coming season where the Green and Gold will try to duplicate that success with a new group of players.

Talk to anybody who faced Zeeland West last year and they will tell you the same thing: they were tested physically for 60 minutes. The Dux' big line and tough, straight ahead running style meant opposing defenses were in for a battle. A big part of that was All-State OT Matthew Forward, who was a vital cog in the team riding their Wing-T attack all the way to a state title.

"Winning a state championship was a dream come true," he said, "We've always talked about it as kids coming up and as we got closer and closer to it, it just made us work harder and harder for that ultimate goal."

The 6'0, 295-lb Forward projects as an interior lineman at the next level, although he is the Dux' left tackle. Opponents who have faced him say he is strong, physical and blocks until the whistle. With the Zeeland West program being in relative infancy, he is quick to credit his head coach, John Shillito for much of his and the team's success.

"This will be my third year playing varsity, and Coach Shillito has helped me tremendously. He is a great coach and really knows what he's doing, and he pushes all of us to be great."

Shillito may have to push even harder this year, as the Dux graduate several key players at key positions including quarterback, both halfbacks and a number of Forward's line mates. All of this combined with the big target being firmly placed on West, will make it a challenge for them to repeat.

"We have ALOT of work to put in," Forward stressed, "Every year we have a new team and every year we have to put forth 110% effort to reach that goal. We can't go into the season looking to repeat. It can be a goal of ours but we have to take it one week at a time, and get better each week."

Forward, who also wrestles and was a state qualifier in discus and shot put, is busy trying to balance getting ready for the upcoming season and also trying to get his name out there to recruiters.

"As far as recruiting goes, there haven't been any offers or anything. Just letters of interest and invites to junior days and things like that. I've received letters from Purdue, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Ball State, and North Central College. I went to both the NIKE combine and camp at Purdue."

Though he has received that interest, one might think a little more attention would be coming the way of an All-State, All-Conference, All-Area lineman. But Forward says he is staying patient, taking the recruiting process in stride and making sure his college decision is the right one.

"What I'm looking for in a college is first off, the scholarship offer they give me, but also in the potential playing time and the coaching staff. I think a great coaching staff would make college football the most enjoyable, which would also lead to success."

Success is something Forward should be used to and if the work he has been putting in and his mindset is any indication of the near future, it will continue to be.

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