Athlete of the week: Matt Weber, Rogers, football: Friday fury

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Matt Weber, the Rogers linebacker who’ll play in the state all-star football game today, made a multitude of big hits in his career,  but the one that sticks out most is a QB sack his junior year, one of those plays about which you can truly say helped save a season.

The Royals trailed Bemidji 21-14 with eight minutes left in the quarterfinal  in Duluth. Bemidji had the ball, on its own 10-yard line. Rogers was desperate for a big play. Their lanky outside linebacker crashed through to wrestle the quarterback to the ground just behind the goal line for a safety.

“That was a HUGE  momentum changer,” recalled coach Marc Franz. The Royals rallied for a 24-21 victory that got them to the Metrodome, where they beat Mahtomedi, then lost to Totino-Grace in the Prep Bowl.

Matt Weber, picked for the state all-star game as an outside linebacker, was also the quarterback of the Royals conference and section champs last fall. (Photo by Quality Photo)

A fierce OLB on two conference and section champion teams and starting quarterback as well his senior year, Weber will conclude his prep football career today playing linebacker for the North at St. Cloud State. He’ll start his college career in August at Winona State.

“We’ve asked Matt to do more on the field than just about any football player I’ve ever coached,” said Franz. “With quarterbacks you usually want to limit them to offense, but that was just not possible with Matt. His mentality is much more for defense than offense, but he was our best quarterback, too.”

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Weber was also three-year starter at defenseman in hockey, helping the Royals win three conference titles there, too, and place second in the section twice. A stay-at-home defender, his career scoring stats were seven goals and 16 assists (and a batch of penalties due to his predatory nature) on teams that went 53-25-5.

“I like football a little better. I like the physical aspect (of both),” said Weber, who generally lets his actions do the talking.

Franz describes Weber as an all-out competitor who never wants to leave the field. Weber’s sheer size and reach make it difficult for ballcarriers to escape him, said Franz. “And when he’s able to square up and hit a guy head-on, he always pushes them back a couple yards.”

During Rogers’ 12-1, state runner-up season, Weber made 71 tackles  and 6.5 quarterback sacks. As a senior on a 9-2 team he notched 56 tackles, 10 of them for losses.

At quarterback, his best attribute was his slashing runs, as he rolled up 285 net yards, 10 touchdowns and numerous first downs on scrambles.

While defense is his favorite side of the ball, he savored the opportunity to play quarterback, too.  “I like to run the ball, and to be in control, to be in position to be a leader.”

Said Franz: “The big thing was his leadership skills. He was the unquestioned leader.”

Winona State coaches are excited about Weber’s big frame and the potential for adding muscle, said Franz.  They put Weber on their weight program as soon as hockey was done, and gave him a nutrition plan last week. It’s a “diet” most of us would welcome with a long grocery list. “You’re not supposed to go more than three hours without eating,” he related happily.

Weber is eagerly anticipating his college career at Winona, where he’ll also study toward his career goal of becoming an engineer in the plastics industry.

THE WEBER SCORECARD

Matt Weber

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents, Marlon and Elaine; brothers, Mitch and Nate; sisters, Angie and Monique … Sports: football, hockey … Academics: 3.5 GPA … College: Winona State, football, composite material engineering

Favorite stuff — Class: English lit, math … TV show: “Hard Knocks,” “CSI Miami,” “Swamp People” … Movies: “Top Gun,” “Friday Night Lights” … Music: country, Jason Aldean … Reading: Sports Illustrated … Food: ribs, meatloaf … Drinks: chocolate milk, Gatorade D2 purple … Team: Packers … Athlete: Clay Mathews … Kickback: fishing and hunting … Would like to visit: Colorado

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