He’s more soft-spoken but when he talks, he’s definitely worth listening to. He’s a great receiving tight end. For a quarterback, it’s so nice to be able to have someone with such a wide catch radius. —BYU quarterback Joe Critchlow, on tight end Matt Bushman
PROVO — You’d think after earning Freshman All-American honors last season, BYU tight end Matt Bushman would feel like he’s proven himself.
But that’s not the approach he’s taken going into his sophomore campaign — not with a new offensive coaching staff at the helm and a new offense to learn.
“It was a blessing to receive an award like that. But that was last year. Now I’m a sophomore. You can’t focus on the past,” he said. “There are a lot of things I need to work on with this new offense. There are new types of blocking, new types of routes, new reads that we need to do. Freshman year I felt good. I feel confident this year but there are many challenges ahead. I need to prepare throughout the summer — get stronger, work on my technique as a blocker and as a route-runner and get faster. There’s always a new challenge. I’m trying to focus on the present and the future and keep working.”
Bushman caught a team-high 49 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns last season. During the recently concluded spring practices, Bushman worked to improve as a blocker.
“After the season, given that confidence, there’s been times this spring when I get frustrated with myself blocking. I feel confident with the route-running and I feel confident catching,” he said. “But blocking is what I need to do better. This offense requires more of a well-rounded tight end. I want to be more consistent so the coaches can see that I can be that kind of tight end.
“Personally, I feel like I’ve progressed a lot in my blocking technique. Last year, I was one of the weaker links blocking,” Bushman added. “Seeing myself where I’m trying to compete — I still have the weakness of blocking — I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m definitely not pleased with it. I’m not going to stop. I have to keep working so I can be better this fall.”
The only staff member on offense that returned from last season was tight ends coach Steve Clark. For Bushman and the other players on the offensive side of the ball, this spring felt like a fresh start.
“We have new coaches and we have to show them what we can do. They come from different schools and have different mindsets,” Bushman said. “I don’t think any of the coaches care that I was a Freshman All-American. I don’t think they worry about that. They worry about the progress, they worry about if I can compete in this offense and do what this offense needs. With that being said, there are things I need to work on so I can stay on the field longer and be more of a weapon.”
Sophomore quarterback Joe Critchlow loves having a target like Bushman to throw to regularly and he appreciates his leadership, too.
“As incredible of a player that Matt Bushman is, he’s a great person as well. He’s a great friend and a good leader on the team,” Critchlow said. “He’s more soft-spoken but when he talks, he’s definitely worth listening to. He’s a great receiving tight end. For a quarterback, it’s so nice to be able to have someone with such a wide catch radius. You can put it almost anywhere. He can make the catch or at least knock it down for you. It’s really comforting to have someone you can trust running routes.”
Before the season kicks off in September, Bushman has something else to look forward to — he is engaged to Emily Lewis of the BYU women’s volleyball team. They are getting married June 22.
That means Bushman's future father-in-law is Chad Lewis, who was an All-American tight end at BYU and a three-time Pro Bowl selection in the National Football League. Lewis' wife, Michele, was an All-American volleyball player at BYU.
“It’s cool. That’s what most of us young guys aspire to be, to be an NFL player. It’s awesome to have a mentor who has gone through all the steps necessary,” Bushman said of Lewis. “He walked-on, so he had to prove himself. It’s awesome hearing him share his experiences and challenges. He gives me a lot of tips that the coaches also give me. It’s nice to hear it from another person who also has authority and experience. It’s been a blessing.”
It hasn’t been easy for Bushman and his fiancée to balance their respective hectic schedules as athletes.
“It’s been good. We understand each other’s schedules. We’re both really busy," he said. "During an engagement, you kind of let her plan her dream wedding reception. Emily does her thing and I support it. If she wants my help, I’ll make a phone call, stuff like that.”
When spring practices were going on, Bushman did everything he could to hone his football skills while maximizing the time he was able to spend with Emily.
“Spring ball is an important thing. I needed to stay focused and organized. When I’m with her, I spend time with her. When I’m going throughout the day, I’m working on football and school,” he said. “There are definitely different challenges when you’re engaged. You have to plan your time. She understands with her dad having played in the NFL. She understands how it goes. She has a busy schedule, too. It’s been good. It’s been fun.”