Posted May 5, 2016

Next stop: Pittsburgh Steelers

Football player Tyler Matakevich has been drafted into the National Football League.

Football player Tyler Matakevich being interviewed by sports network ESPN.
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Temple football linebacker Tyler Matakevich, EDU ’15, was selected in the 2016 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers after playing for the Owls for four years.

A week before Commencement, while most Temple students were in the midst of final exams, Tyler Matakevich, EDU ’15, and a handful of other members of the graduating class were on a different and more public path to their next stop.

After years of sacrifice and striving to balance the demands of succeeding as a student and an athlete, the most decorated Temple football player in university history was waiting with friends and family in his home state of Connecticut to hear if his name would get called in the 2016 NFL draft.

It was a long wait. As analysts predicted, he wasn’t picked in the first round last Thursday. Nor was he picked in the second or third round on Friday.

“I just want to hear my name called,” Matakevich said before the draft. “That’s been my dream since I was a little kid and I didn’t ever think I’d come this close to it actually being a possibility.”

“Tyler is a special player. He will play in the NFL for many years and will make the Steelers very happy.
-- Football Head Coach Matt Rhule
On Saturday, some of his teammates started to get their chances. First was Tavon Young, selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round. Then the Washington Redskins picked Matt Ioannidis, SMC ’15, in the fifth round. The hours passed. Finally, in the seventh and final round, Matakevich got a phone call from Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin—the Steelers were choosing him with the eighth-to-last selection of the draft.

“I told [Tomlin] ‘This is the best decision you ever made,’” an emotional Matakevich told The Hartford Courant over the shouts of his family.

His now-former coach, Temple’s Matt Rhule, agrees.

“Tyler is a special player,” Rhule said. “He will play in the NFL for many years and will make the Steelers very happy. He gets credit for being a play-maker and being very instinctual, but what people don’t see is that he spends a lot of time studying film.”

By the end of the night, three undrafted Owls signed rookie free-agent contracts: Robby Anderson with the New York Jets; Kyle Friend, FOX ’15, also with the New York Jets; and Brandon Shippen, CLA ’15, with the Miami Dolphins. Published reports indicate that three more have earned minicamp tryouts: Shahbaz Ahmed, CLA ’15, with the Atlanta Falcons; Hershey Walton, SMC ’14, with the Seattle Seahawks; and Alex Wells with the New York Jets. They join the 10 Temple alumni who were already on NFL rosters before the draft.

The three draft selections tied Temple’s all-time high for players drafted in one year, capping a year of broken records both on and off the field for the seniors, almost all of whom have earned their degrees. Two weeks ago, when the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report, Temple football became one of only two programs in the nation (the other being Purdue University) never to post an annual Academic Progress Rate decline since the metric was formulated more than a decade ago.