I trust our coaching staff a hundred percent. So when they’re telling me that this is what they think is best for me, and the team right now and that, ‘You just got to trust us.’ Yeah, OK, let’s do it. —Matt Hadley
PROVO — BYU's Matt Hadley had a deal with some things most aren't accustomed to while growing up on a farm in rural Washington. So when coaches asked him to switch positions a little less than two weeks before the season opener, the 6-foot, 213-pound senior was more capable of doing that than most.
Hadley has spent his time at BYU primarily playing at safety, although he did try out the running back position briefly before switching back to defense for his final year. That move proved successful, as the former Connell High School star was tabbed the starter at free safety, just days before chatting with BYU assistant coach Ed Lamb.
Lamb's message was to inform Hadley that they wanted him to move to outside linebacker, specifically the weakside linebacker spot, where Francis Bernard was assumed to be the starter.
“Right when Coach Lamb told me I was a little taken aback. I was kind of confused,” Hadley recalled of the meeting that took place a little over a week ago. “But I trust our coaching staff a hundred percent. So when they’re telling me that this is what they think is best for me, and the team right now and that, ‘You just got to trust us.’ Yeah, OK, let’s do it.”
Playing a variety of positions is something Hadley grew accustomed to in high school. Connell High is much lower in numbers than the prep programs that produce most college athletes, with Hadley having to play a variety of spots for his team.
Doing as much helped prepare him for his current task at hand, which now has him not only playing outside linebacker, but also starting.
“He’s just a good ballplayer,” said defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. “I thought he did good enough at running back to stay there. He was our starting safety, but things just kind of happened (and) we decided to move him. He fits in anywhere on the field.”
Coaches state that the outside linebacker spot is much the same thing as playing safety, although the two spots are normally fielded by bigger bodies than Hadley's. Therefore, the switch does provide some difficulties.
“It’s a lot faster reading everything 11 yards off the ball as opposed to now five yards off the ball,” Hadley said. “That’s going to be a bit of a challenge and also using my hands more. I’ll be butting heads more with 330-pounders a lot more often than I was. So I’m going to have to use my hands to avoid (them.)”
Fortunately, Hadley grew up dealing with things much bigger than himself — mainly the cattle he helped herd on his family farm. It's something his older brother, Spencer Hadley, grew up doing as well before playing at relatively the same position Matt is now being asked to play.
As one can imagine, Spencer is excited about the move and is more than willing to give advice.
“I guarantee he’s going to give me a lot more tips as it comes. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks,” Matt Hadley said of that advice.
With the shock of the move now behind him, and the start of the season less than a week away, Matt Hadley is happy about the opportunities ahead of him this season.
“I’m just honestly grateful that the coaches trust me with it,” Hadley said. “And I’ve been able to see my ability, what I can do and how I can contribute So I’m just thankful.”