If Tyler Matakevich was playing baseball instead of football on Saturday night, they would stop the game and give him the ball for what he is about to do and, while it’s not a home run, it will be just as significant.
Instead, when Matakevich gets his next tackle, which will be his No. 400 career one, against visiting Central Florida, the AAC game will go on and the Temple football linebacker will have to settle for getting his just rewards at the end of the season. Four hundred is just a number, but add that to all of the other numbers Matakevich has been able to compile over both his career and this season and he is building enough currency to purchase some valuable hardware at the end of the season.
Sports are all about numbers, with different numbers meaning different things but some meaning everything. For Matakevich, it’s just one more tackle but it should move him one step closer to winning the Dick Butkus’ Award as the nation’s best linebacker. It certainly will cement his legacy as one of the greatest ever to play on the defensive side of the ball in college football. In college football, 400 tackles means just as much—if not more—than 500 or 600 home runs mean in major league baseball simply because the number of guys who have done both is approximately the same.
Already, Matakevich is the nation’s leading active career tackler in all five NCAA classifications (FBS, FCS and Divisions I-III) and what’s left for him is to add to it in his final season by getting some much-deserved hardware in addition to the Butkus’ Award. One of his top competitors for the trophy, Scooby Wright III of Arizona, has played only one game due to injury. Matakevich has to be considered at the head of this year’s linebacker class.
When it comes to numbers, few have been as impressive as Matakevich. He is the only active FBS player with 100 tackles in each of his last three seasons. This year, he is the only player among FBS teams to lead his team in tackles each game—remarkable on its own, but even more impressive in that his defense is the No. 13-ranked scoring defense in the country. With 44 tackles in five games, he is right on pace for 100 in 12 games and, with the way the unbeaten Owls are playing, they could easily have more games than the regular-season minimum. The Temple school record for tackles, by Steve Conjar (492) clearly is in sight and, should Matakevich reach it, only two players in the history of college football, Boston College’s Luke Kuechly (532) and Houston’s Marcus McGraw (510) will finish ahead of him.
With that career and with this season, that should be more than enough to get Matakevich long overdue recognition.
Tomorrow: Forgetting is Not An Excuse
Saturday: Game Day Preview