Earlier this year, Nic Matiere-Bey stood at a podium overlooking a crowd, announcing his decision to sign with Austin Peay. The words he spoke were printed the next morning in the local paper, The Flint Journal.
“Where I grew up if you needed something you had to take it.”
This was just a portion of the Michigan native’s speech before he packed his bags to become a Governor. Matiere-Bey will now carry that attitude to a young APSU team where plenty of opportunities to take control of playing time as a newcomer will come. He is just one of eight freshmen defensive linemen on the roster, meaning a lot of competition. However, his high school stats speak for themselves, so it’s hard to overlook him.
At Flint Southwestern Academy, Matiere-Bey was a stand-out player as a senior despite a poor team record of 2-7. While playing left defensive end, he recorded 66 total tackles (55 solo) and 14 sacks, while ending his career with a historic finish. In Flint’s final game against Ecorse, which ended in a 50-6 rout in favor of Flint, Matiere-Bey totaled nine tackles and a school-record eight sacks.
The Govs had eight sacks combined as a team last season, so there’s no doubt the performance by Matiere-Bey was spectacular. Improving the pass rush is a crucial area for APSU that needs improvement, and head coach Kirby Cannon — who will also serve as defensive coordinator — believes the newcomer has a good chance of playing in his first season.
“It’s a position we’re in dire need of,” Cannon said. “Bringing in some guys who can contribute immediately, he was recruited with that in mind. He’s very serious about the game, a good student of the game, and we anticipate that he will play.”
His play has already caught the attention of Cannon, who knew about Matiere-Bey while at Central Michigan. While Matiere-Bey’s 6-foot-2 height didn’t impress other Division I schools in the Michigan area, Cannon loves the size he brings to the table at 270 pounds. In the initial weight testing process, Matiere-Bey finished second on the team in 225-pound reps, doing it 21 times as if he was a senior.
But there are differences at the next level on the field, and Matiere-Bey is working on transitioning as training camp rolls along.
“I feel like it’s going pretty good,” he said. “Coming from high school to college, the speed of the game is moving a bit faster. (But) practicing with the team I’m able to adjust well.”
Matiere-Bey has gone through one week of fall practice thus far, and like all freshmen, it will take time to learn the plays and adjust to new teammates. But according to the veteran players on the defensive side of the ball, they say Matiere-Bey hasn’t been shy when it comes to asking questions on how he can improve.
“He’s always willing to be critiqued if he’s doing something wrong, and is very coachable,” junior defensive end Corey Teague said. “When Coach tells him something, he listens well, or even if I tell him something he listens very well. I feel like as long as he keeps listening and keeps working at it he’ll be a good player.”
When asked what the outlook for himself this season is, Matiere-Bey paused for a moment before saying,”To play in a college football game.” After growing up in one of the most dangerous cities in the country, the Flint native is thankful to just be in a good location, and isn’t taking it for granted.
“Nic is a young man who has a level of maturity that allows him to really understand a great opportunity he is getting,” Cannon said. “He’s got a chance to play early in his career, and he’s going to an outstanding school in a great area of the country that is successful and growing. He’s the type of guy who is appreciative of that, and he’s also the type of guy who wants to take advantage of that.”
His opening to become an impact player is there. Now it’s up to him to take it.
Photo: Nic Matiere-Bey (52) pressures a quarterback in high school (Jack May/MLive.com)