New Start, Same Man: Matthias Farley
Isaac Lorton | Thursday, November 13, 2014
Whatever may change on the field, Matthias Farley remains the same.
“Sweet beard pic,” Farley said as he wrapped up his photo shoot Wednesday.
Farley’s facial follicles are a talent of his, he noted.
“Every time I have had a beard since I started playing football, I have played better than if I shave my face, historically,” Farley said.
The easy-going, self-assured Charlotte, North Carolina native said it is this nature that allows him to weather the chaos of Notre Dame football.
“I have been the exact same way since I’ve got here,” Farley said. “When you’re going through change, if you’re grounded and find out who you are as a person outside of football — because there’s so many things that can change on a whim in this game — you can’t be serious all of the time. So I think it has helped me because I like to goof around and have a good time. Just keeping that in mind and understanding that there’s a lot of things at stake in the game of football [is important], but just remembering to enjoy it and understand it’s a blessing to be able to play it period, especially to be able to play it here, [is also important]”
Farley has played four different positions in an Irish uniform and started at three of them. As a freshman, Farley was on the practice squad as a redshirt receiver who often watched away games from his dorm, Carroll Hall. As a sophomore, Farley was asked to play safety, and shortly thereafter, he was thrown into a starting role after injuries to former Irish safety Jamoris Slaughter and graduate student safety Austin Collinsworth. Farley excelled in his new role with 49 tackles, an interception and a crucial seven-yard tackle-for-loss against Stanford in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s 20-13 win in October 2012. As a junior, much was expected from Farley, but he did not quite live up to those high expectations throughout the season. Farley said he placed these lofty expectations on himself as well, but such thoughts were hindrances at times.
“I think I had to grow up a lot,” Farley said of his play last season. “When you get put in a situation where you do well and then you come back and things are expected of you and you don’t do as well or don’t live up to it, it’s easy to take it hard on yourself and harp on things that you should probably let go.”
As a senior, Farley was asked to play the nickelback corner position under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. The position was much more complex compared to the nickel corner in former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s system, and after watching a lot of film, VanGorder asked Farley to take on that role. Used to changing positions, Farley said he took it all in stride.
“I saw it as a way to start over,” Farley said of his position change. “It’s a new coordinator, a new system. It’s kind of been the story of my career: starting over. I had no reservations about when he said he wanted to move me. I was on board 100 percent.”
Farley said he was much more prepared for his senior year because he put his time at Notre Dame into perspective. His even-keeled demeanor has contributed to his play this season, which has included 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles-for-loss and three interceptions.
“I came in [this season] with a different mindset that I was just going to enjoy this because there’s somebody somewhere — probably thousands of people — who would trade with me in a day – and trade with any of us, not just myself. It goes so fast. … I feel like I just got here. So really I just enjoy every day, give my all every day and try to encourage everybody else around me.”
It is through all of his trials and experiences that Farley has become a calming source and advisor for his young teammates and new starters on the Irish defense, he said.
“I feel like I have gone through a lot of things that they have gone through,” Farley said. “My sophomore year, I got thrown in due to an injury, and last year, I had a lot of ups and downs. So having gone through that, and seeing guys when they get done, it’s really easy for me to pick up on it because I was right there really not too long ago at all.”
Farley remains rooted in and inspired by the lessons his family has taught him, he said. His memories cover his left arm, chest and back in the form of tattoos. On his bicep, his very first tattoo, which reads “Farley Sempre,” or “Farley Forever,” surrounded by the outline of North Carolina reminds him of his family and home. The number “7” on his elbow represents his seven siblings. Coming off the “7,” a staircase climbs into the clouds of heaven in remembrance of his deceased brother, Titus. The poem, “Invictus,” on his back tells him he “is the master of [his] fate” and the “captain of [his soul],” while the large Icarus on his shoulder reminds him to be humble and grounded, he said. These images map out how Farley became who he is as a person, he said.
“I think tattoos are the story of my life on my arm,” Farley said. “And it’s a constant reminder of people and things that have had huge impacts on my life. Just in a visual form … it is a great reminder to pull me back to home base of what I have gone through, where I have been and where I want to go, and the people who have helped me get there.”
The tattoos add to Farley’s unique style, something about which his teammates make frequent comments.
“I think it’s kind of comical because I wear the same things every day,” Farley said. “Every once in a while, I throw a curveball and wear some cowboy boots.
“There’s not too much variety. I just own it. I just rock it.”
With his style comes his music. Farley has a great affinity for music, one he has been trying to express by learning the ukulele from sophomore receiver Corey Robinson.
“I love music,” Farley said. “I don’t think the world should exist if there wasn’t music in it. I have never been musically gifted — I am not very good at the ukulele — but I really enjoy playing. I think music is applicable to anything and everything in life, whether it is good or bad.”
Learning the ukulele has not been as easy as changing a position, Farley said.
“It’s honestly a frustration because Corey Robinson is still so much better at it than me,” Farley said. “I always wanted to play an instrument. I joke around all the time and say I’m really good at the kazoo, which I actually am, but that doesn’t take too much talent. It’s been cool to learn something new, pick something up.”
Music connects to all things, even football, Farley said.
“When you’re playing a game like football, [music] definitely adds to it, even if it is just a pregame soundtrack,” Farley said. “If you hear it every time before you go out, it kind of gets your mind set right, adds consistency.”
The consistency and uniqueness that define Farley as a person have shown up on the field this season, as he has consistently made the big play when most needed. Farley summed up his personality and play in his description of his beard.
“If you have a gift, you should share it.”