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Football

Jacob Matuska ‘wouldn’t change any of it for the world’

| Friday, November 18, 2016

Just as Jacob Matuska finishes answering questions about his career at Notre Dame, his fellow senior tight end and Ohio native Ben Suttman overhears Matuska’s final words and pounces on them with a joking question of his own.

“Really, you wouldn’t change any of it?” Suttman asks.

Matuska doesn’t miss a beat.

“Not a thing.”

Suttman may have only been having fun with his teammate, and if it were any other player maybe it wouldn’t mean much, but Matuska’s four years at Notre Dame have been defined by  changing things — and changing them back.

After success on both sides of the ball for Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio, Matuska was seen by most recruiting services as a tight end. Yet he chose to commit to Notre Dame, where instead of getting the ball at his favored position, he spent more of his first three years tackling ball carriers as he lined up at defensive end.

Irish senior tight end Jacob Matuska catches a ball during warm ups before Notre Dame’s victory over Miami at Notre Dame Stadium.Kelly Vaughn | The Observer

Irish senior tight end Jacob Matuska catches a ball during warm ups
before Notre Dame’s victory over Miami at Notre Dame Stadium.

Matuska said despite not being sure if he’d get to play on offense, his love of Notre Dame from an early age made him decide to commit to the Irish, as the second member of 2012’s fourth-ranked recruiting class.

“I’ve always dreamed of coming here since I was about 10 years old,” Matuska said. “Notre Dame’s always been the school of choice for me. But when it came down to it, it was a little rough having to make such a big decision. But having a couple of visits here, and seeing what it would be like to be here, be with the team and be a part of this University and the tradition they have here, that really drew me in. It was really something special to me that made me want to come here.”

After redshirting his freshman season, Matuska appeared in seven games in 2014, including serious playing time on defense for the final three after injuries to starters. Matuska made five tackles and sacked Louisville quarterback Reggie Bonnafon during Notre Dame’s final home game of the season against the Cardinals. Matuska then started against USC, before suffering a shoulder injury.

Matuska said he’ll never forget the first time he stepped out onto the field for the Irish.

“It was a rush of different emotions,” Matuska said. “I was super happy that I was doing something I’d always dreamed of doing, and I was kind of proud of where I’ve come and where I’m at with my life. Getting the opportunity to do something I love at the place I’ve always dreamed of doing it is just really special. I’ll always remember that moment.”

After seeing less time in his junior year, Matuska made the switch to tight end at the end of the year. Matuska joined a long list of Notre Dame players who have had a chance to make an impact after a positional change under Brian Kelly, a list that includes fellow defensive player-turned-tight end Troy Niklas. Although he hasn’t caught a pass yet for the Irish, Matuska said he is glad to be back on offense.

“I’ve always seen tight end as something I’ve really enjoyed to do,” Matuska said. “I’ll enjoy defensive end, but I think tight end is where I’m most comfortable and where I’ll enjoy my time more. But having experience on both sides of the ball is really something pretty special for me at least. But where I’m at now, I’m kind of glad tight end’s where I’m going to be now that I’m getting to the tail end of my career here.”

With one year of eligibility remaining, Matuska said he is open to the idea of getting one more year of play back at the position he loves, although he acknowledged that he isn’t certain of his decision.

“There’s always the potential for a fifth year,” Matuska said. “I want to finish this season strong and see where I’m out with that, but then after this season I’ll probably make my decision.”

Regardless of what he does next year or where he lines up on the field, Matuska said he’s loved his time at Notre Dame.

“I’m very happy and proud of being a senior here and being able to say that I was a football player here at Notre Dame,” Matuska said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I’m really happy how it worked.

And as he finished summarizing his time at Notre Dame, Matuska said the phrase Suttman latched on to.

“I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel