ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — As a two-star recruit, Tyler Matakevich’s NFL dreams felt small.
Everything changed once he got to Temple University.
Matakevich made a splash in the football program early. He was one of four true freshman to earn a starting role. By senior year, he earned a single-digit jersey, the highest honor a Temple player can have, before winning the Chuch Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards for outstanding defensive performance by a college football player.
“I just want to win,” said Matakevich. “When you win, good things happen.”
Matakevich was drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent four seasons with the Steelers as a league leader in special teams before signing a contract with the Bills.
“I think this organization fits me head to toe,” said Matakevich. “The city of Buffalo is blue collar, everyone knows what this city is about, they’re hard working people. It’s how I was brought up. Nothing’s handed to you, work hard and good things will happen.”
Coaches, teammates, critics, and fans have compared Matakevich to Lorenzo Alexander for his special teams prowess. During his early seasons in Pittsburgh, Matakevich studied Alexander’s film and feels honored by the comparisons.
“Everyone in the National Football League knows him, knows what he’s about, earning what he’s got and how tough he is,” said Matakevich. “I studied him for a year, picked up on little vet moves that he does and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of conversations with him.”
Mentors like Alexander and teammates like Edmund and Milano have made learning a new defensive scheme in a season without preseason games. Bills run a 4-3 defense, while the Steelers run a 3-4 defense.
Throughout his life’s adversity, Matakevich has relied on one motto: prepare like a starter.
“By preparing as if you’re going to be a starter, it helps you from a mental standpoint,” said Matakevich. “God forbid if they’re pulled, you’re ready. You’d rather be prepared than unprepared. That’s how I try to play my game.”
With Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds out, Matakevich may get his shot at starting as early as Sunday against the Dolphins.
No matter when his name is called, Matakevich will be ready.