Transferred. Injured. Ineligible.
Senior right tackle Dan Matha has had his share of obstacles, but is once again a force on the field in helping No. 22-ranked Indiana (Pa.) boast one of the top rushing teams in NCAA Division II.
” It’s a great feeling,” Matha said. “It’s been a lot of bumps along the way. Haven’t always been healthy. So to finally be healthy. It’s a weight off my shoulders.
“To be able to play and do the things I know I’m capable of doing. Not really being hindered by an injury or pain or anything, it’s long overdue.”
With the 6-foot, 7-inch, 290-pound Matha helping clear space to run free, the Crimson Hawks (5-1, 2-1 PSAC West) are seventh nationally in rushing and have the nation’s second-leading rusher in senior Harvie Tuck.
“We vote every week in the offensive meeting room which side of the line did better,” Tuck said. “The right side has been getting a lot of wins. Probably four out of the six weeks, they’ve won and I think part of it is because of Dan.”
It wasn’ t that long ago Matha, an McDowell High graduate, was at Pitt wondering if he’d ever become healthy enough to even compete for a starting spot, let alone play.
A redshirt in 2007, Matha spent three years at Pitt trying to overcome problems with his shoulders. He then transferred to Indiana (Pa.) where he started eight games in 2010.
“It was always one thing after another,” said Matha, who mentioned he has also had knee, groin and hamstring injuries. “It just accumulated at one point.”
Then last season, Matha was academically ineligible.
“It was rough,” Matha said. “I was disappointed in myself because I let myself down and more importantly, I let my team down by my poor decisions academically. As a leader and a player on the team, I felt like I let a lot of people down and it was disappointing.”
Regaining eligibility, Matha has started all six games this season as is proud to be part of an offense that has overpowered opponents with its running game. IUP is averaging 309 yards a game on the ground as Tuck is five yards short of reaching 1,000.
“As an offensive lineman, you take pride in the run game,” Matha said. “To have arguably the best run game in the nation, I don’t know how much better you can feel about that.
“The best part of all of it is to be part of a unit that has the same mentality as you and your coach has the same mentality. It’s great feeling putting up 200,300, 400 yards on the ground.”
He’s even happier to have stayed healthy.
“Maybe a little luck is on my side this year,” Matha said. “I’ve just been extra cautious of taking care of my body.”
Eligible. Pain free. Having fun.
— Duane Rankin