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Matakevich, Steelers meet Patriots for AFC championship on Sunday

Tyler Matakevich, a former two-sport star in the FCIAC at St. Joseph High School, returns to New England this weekend as a rookie linebacker on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Matakevich and the Steelers will play in Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game against the host New England Patriots for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

Kickoff for this Sunday’s AFC championship at New England’s Gillette Stadium is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. The Steelers have not won at Gillette Stadium since 2008.

Matakevich was picked in the seventh round with the 246th overall pick in last spring’s 2016 NFL Draft after a fantastic career at Temple University. Matakevich, who wears jersey No. 44, is listed on Pittsburgh’s depth chart as a 6-foot-1, 235-pound inside linebacker.

He has seen most of his action on special teams such as punt coverage, punt return and kickoff coverage. Matakevich has 16 tackles and four assisted tackles for 20 total. He saw his most game action on Nov. 6 in a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins when he had a season-high nine combined tackles.

Matakevich, a Stratford native, helped coach Joe DellaVecchia win two football state championships at St. Joseph. Matakevich was also an excellent baseball player for the Cadets.

He completed his career at Temple with a senior season so superb that he won two prestigious awards as the nation’s Defensive Player of the Year, was a consensus All-America player and ended up being the most decorated football player in the history of Temple University.

Matakevich led the Owls in tackles every game his senior year. He had 126 tackles during that 2015 college football season, including 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, had five interceptions and his career total of 493 tackles is a school record.

There are five main selector organizations which select All-America teams. If a player is All-America First Team on at least two of them, that player is a consensus All-America. Matakevich was so honored by four of the selector organizations. He made the AP All-America First Team and was also a first-team All-America selection by the American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America and Walter Camp Foundation.

He is one of just three former FCIAC football players who was a consensus All-America in college – the other two being former New Canaan High School star Pete Demmerle (Notre Dame wide receiver, 1974) and former Greenwich High School star Steve Young (Brigham Young quarterback, 1983), who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Matakevich won the Bronco Nagurski Award which the FWAA and Charlotte Touchdown Club bestows on its top defensive player in the nation and he also received the Chuck Bednarik Award which also goes to the nation’s top defensive player.

Beyond those five organizations which are involved to determine consensus All-America players, Matakevich also made USA Today, ESPN, Fox and Athlon All-America teams during his senior year at Temple.

The winner of Sunday’s Steelers-Patriots game advances to Super Bowl LI, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston, to play the winner of this Sunday’s NFC championship game between Green Bay and host Atlanta.

Tyler Matakevich in action with the Temple football team. — Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University Photo

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