Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Former state stars offer advice to newest wave of recruits

A week today the next wave of college football stars will make it official by signing on the dotted line.

However, making the move from commit to signee is merely the start of things for those who will be a part of incoming freshman classes whether it is at UConn or another Football Bowl Subdivision program.

Recently both former Notre Dame of West Haven High School and University of Wisconsin star Tarek Saleh as well as St. Joseph High standout and Temple University All-American Tyler Matakevich were in New Haven for the Walter Camp Foundation's Breakfast of Champions. With so many future college football players, including four headed to UConn, in the audience I asked both Saleh and Matakevich what advice they would give to those making the transition from high school to college.

"I would say that recipe for success is still what it is," Saleh said. "In Connecticut, you have great football. Sometimes we take a back seat because we are a smaller state but we have good football and we have great schools. The recipe for success is the hard work, the sacrifice, working in the gym every day, going out and being a team player, be a leader and make good choices. That doesn't change when you get to the next level, you have to do the same thing. All the way through the NFL if you ever have a chance to do that - obviously it is very difficult - but no matter what you do in life, what you have done at the high school level, the work ethic and the time that you put it you have to carry that over and you will successful in whatever you do."

When Saleh was coming out of high school UConn was still playing at the I-AA level so schools like Wisconsin, Syracuse and Boston College would pluck the best players out of Connecticut. While that can still happen on occasion, Tyler Coyle, Keyion Dixon and Jasen Rose will be signing their national letters of intent with UConn next week while Teddy Allmendinger will head to Storrs as a preferred walk-on.

"I think there is a lot of excitement," Saleh said. "I went to a UConn game a couple of years ago and it was a pretty good atmosphere. It is a good opportunity, they are at a point now where they are ready to make that next step so I think they have done some nice things. I am a Badger so I wouldn't change anything. I would encourage all the kids to take a good look at UConn but at the end of the day, Wisconsin is a great place to go play s there are a lot of options out there so may be the best school win."

The fact that UConn passed on offering Matakevich a scholarship both as he was coming out of high school and after a post-graduate year at Milford Academy is well documented. I would think that the aforementioned quartet of future Huskies still might identify more with Matakevich, who just wrapped up his brilliant career at Temple since they had opportunities to see him pile up tackles over the last four seasons.

Matakevich's advice is rather similar to what Saleh has to say.

"Hard work and determination is everything," Matakevich said. "You can get caught up in the whole recruiting process. What I have learned is whatever happens happens. You have to make the best out of whatever opportunity to get and just go from there."


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