Temple football’s Matakevich a consensus first team All-American

Former St. Joseph High School football star Tyler Matakevich is in a small and elite fraternity in that he became just the third former player from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference who had a senior season so superb in college that he became a consensus first-team All-America selection.

Tyler Matakevich — Temple University Photo

Former New Canaan High School and Notre Dame star wide receiver Pete Demmerle, former Greenwich High School and Brigham Young University star quarterback Steve Young, and this latest addition of Matakevich, the Temple University star senior inside linebacker, are now the only three former players from the FCIAC who became consensus All-America first-team players.

In December he was selected to the Associated Press All-America First Team that many consider the most important All-America team.

Yes indeed, there is Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Derrick Henry, Alabama’s excellent junior running back on the team. There are also the other two finalists in the Heisman Trophy balloting – Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford sophomore running back Christian McCaffery – on the team. And there is also Matakavich on the AP All-America First Team.

Matakavich is one of three linebackers, 11 defensive players and 25 total players on the AP All-America First Team. Alabama senior Reggie Ragland and Notre Dame junior Jaylon Smith are the other two linebackers.

Matakevich’s senior season topped off an excellent career in which the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder was a tackling machine who had the propensity for coming up with the big play in terms of getting turnovers or creating them with jarring tackles.

Matakevich racked up 126 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, and had five interceptions for Temple’s 10-4 Owls, who lost to Toledo, 32-17, in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. Matakevich had at least 11 tackles in six games this year and had a dozen tackles in that last game of his career to establish the school record of 493 total tackles. He led Temple in tackles every game this past season.

Tyler Matakevich. — Temple University photo

Matakevich had at least 100 tackles a season for all four seasons of his career to become only the seventh NCAA player to achieve that. He and former New York Jets star Joe Klecko are the only players in Temple history to have recorded at least 100 tackles in three seasons.

Matakevich is the most decorated player in Temple history.

He was a consensus All-America this season via being a first-team selection on several All-America teams. Players selected to the first team on at least two of the five most prestigious All-America teams are consensus All-America players. In addition to the AP, the other five selector organizations used to determine consensus All-America players include: American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and Walter Camp Foundation.

Matakevich was a first-team selection on four of those five teams – the AP, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, and Walter Camp Foundation. He was also selected to the USA Today, ESPN, Fox and Athlon All-America teams.

What’s more, Matakevich won the Bronco Nagurski Award that the FWAA and Charlotte Touchdown Club awards to the top defensive player in the country and the Chuck Bednarik Award that is also emblematic of the best defensive player in the country. So naturally it only makes sense that Matakevich was also the Defensive Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference.

Matakevich will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 with a goal of making a positive impression for NFL scouts and general managers.

Matakevich, from Stratford, earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors as a star linebacker and running back at St. Joseph who helped coach Joe DellaVeccchia’s Cadets win two straight state championships.

Demmerle made the All-FCIAC First Team in 1970, he helped Notre Dame win the national championship in 1973 with a 24-23 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and the following year he was the only wide receiver in the nation who was a consensus All-America first-team player. A knee injury in his last game halted any potential NFL career. Demmerle became a successful lawyer before he passed away at the age of 53 on May 24, 2007 after an eight-year battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Young made All-FCIAC teams in 1978 and ’79 and he was the consensus first-team All-America quarterback for BYU in 1983. Young excelled in the NFL as a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and he is currently a pre- and post-game analyst for ESPN during Monday Night NFL games.

Tyler Matakevich of the Temple football team closes in on a quarterback. — Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University Photo