“They didn’t understand my motivation,” he said in a 1986 church magazine article. “Going through my mind was the fact that football is good and football is important, but someday football is going to end. Where would I be on that day if I based my entire life on football? I thought of what doesn’t end, and that’s my relationship with God, my family and with our church. So I left football, knowing that I might not ever play again. But even if I didn’t, there would be no regrets, because the most important thing would be taken care of.”
While living amid the poverty and humble Mexican people, Matich had what he called a “transformative” experience. He declined to share details about some of his difficult experiences, but said his “mission was a foundation for the rest of his career.”
“When I left, I was still really scared and shy. I was just a kid. I wasn’t mentally tough. When there was mental pressure and conflict, I tended to shy away from it,” he said. “I would love to tell you I was a lion or tower of faith, but that wasn’t what I was — I was a little kid that had to grab onto something.
“In a mission, you deal with a lot of opposition. There is a side out there that doesn’t want you to succeed as a missionary or a man. I kept being put in positions where in the midst of the action, I would think, ‘I’m terrible at this. I can’t do this, this is the worst thing in the world, but the Lord must have put me in this position for a reason, so I guess I better handle it the way he would want me to handle it,’” Matich continued. “I was able to develop the mental ability to focus through the chaos. That has served me incredibly well.”
When Matich arrived in Mexico, he weighed about 235 pounds. At best, he ate one square meal a day. When he stepped off the airplane after his mission, he weighed a measly 207 pounds. He set a goal to “eat everything slower than him” and by the beginning of his junior year, he tipped the scales at 250 pounds. Not only did he feel like a college football player again, he was more mentally prepared.
“The higher you go in football, the physical side isn’t the challenge — it’s the mental side, the focus, the discipline,” Matich said. “As it turns out, my mission was one of the most transformative times of my life, probably because it wasn’t easy.”
The highlight of Matich’s college football career is obviously being a member of BYU’s 1984 national championship team. He started on the offensive line with tackles Luis Wong and Dave Wright and guards Craig Garrick and future offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
According to a 1984 Sports Illustrated article, Matich used a bag of peanut M&Ms to review his team's game plan the night before each game that season. The brown-coated candies represented pass rushers, the orange ones linebackers and the green and yellow ones the offensive line, the article said. Matich would move the defensive M&Ms around in a variety of blitzing formations, countering each new alignment with adjustments by the greens and yellows. “Finally,” Matich told writer Jack McCallum, “I eat them up.”
For Matich, defeating Michigan in the 1984 Holiday Bowl was more than sweetness — it was culmination of four years of intense effort and camaraderie.
“We all suffered together toward that common goal,” Matich said on BYU media day. “Just the feeling of euphoria for the accomplishment, and relief that we had now done it was fantastic. That emotion, as much as anything, is associated with everything about this place (BYU). It’s not the only emotion, not even close, but we talk about the national championship and what it meant to be a part of it as a group of men. It’s something that never fades in your memory.”
Respect over friendship
The New England Patriots selected Matich in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle in the first game and missed the rest of the season.
The turning point in his NFL career came the following fall when he learned this lesson: “It’s nice to be liked, but it’s better to be respected.”
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- Ask Angela: I'm 24 and I think I'm headed to...
- LDS Church enhances web pages on its history,...
- Mormon missionaries shine shoes, teach the...
- One year since Sandy Hook: 'Evil did not win'...
- Pres. Monson teaches Christmas is the time to...
- Amish school shooter's kin: Horror, then healing
- LDS Church alters Christmas devotional tradition
- Many Mormon missionaries who return... 108
- Ask Angela: I'm 24 and I think I'm... 64
- Mormon missionaries shine shoes, teach... 22
- Space and religion: How believers view... 20
- In Our Lovely Deseret: Mark Twain and... 13
- One year since Sandy Hook: 'Evil did... 9
- Tips for LDS bloggers from the... 8
- Pres. Monson teaches Christmas is the... 8