Hewett lives dream, finally, of playing college football
Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 12:03 pm
Matt Hewett thought his playing days were long behind him.
As a fifth-year senior at UT Martin majoring in exercise science, the former Dresden High School standout had already begun working on his career path. He had helped his father, Dresden head coach Scott Hewett, coach the Lions before taking an internship with the UTM football program this past summer.
“I never thought I’d play again,” Hewett said following UTM’s 63-0 win over Union (Ky.) College on Thursday night.
That statement came not long after he had, in fact, played again.
The urge of putting on a college football uniform had always been with him. While working with the UTM players as a member of the staff, that urge received a little nudge. And, finally last week, Hewett was nudged enough to make his dream a reality.
What happened next was stuff of storybook endings.
Not only did Hewett finally get to play college football, he made some memories to last a lifetime.
Hewett played on the kickoff team, making a tackle, and also lined up in the offensive backfield in the fourth quarter. He made the most of his time on offense by getting seven carries for 48 yards, making him the game’s third-leading rusher, and scoring a touchdown that capped off the Skyhawks’ 63-0 win.
“It was an awesome feeling,” said Hewett, who wore jersey number 22 and is listed at 5-9, 195 pounds on the roster. “You don’t get to do that every day, relive a dream.
“I just wanted to be on the field. After that first play, if that was the only play I’d ever get in college, that would have been fine with me. And, the touchdown was icing on the cake.”
Besides, no matter what the level of the competition might have been, it was still a big step up from what he had seen in his last game as a high school player.
“It was what I remembered, except a lot faster,” said Hewett, who rushed for over 1,300 yards as a junior at Dresden in 2005 but suffered a season-ending knee injury his senior year. “The players were a lot faster and hit a lot harder than from what I remember in high school.”
UTM head coach Jason Simpson said the experience was great for everyone involved in the program, and one he hopes is not over.
“It’s been a blast,” Simpson said. “You have to understand, he’s been in my staff meetings the past five months. Some of the players call him Coach Hewett. Whether he gets into coaching or personal training, he’s very good at it, so he was doing an internship in our weight room. We’ve been kidding him for four years to walk on, and he’s always turned us down. So, coach (Jordon) comes to me and says that Matt wants to play. He said it was a one-time thing, but I hope he continues to play.”
Hewett went from being an intern on the staff to a player on the depth chart early last week. He was held out of practice Monday because he hadn’t had a physical yet. He did some running with the team on Tuesday and then got up to speed, somewhat, on the actual playbook Wednesday.
“He only knew two plays, the draw and toss sweep,” Simpson said.
Hewett made the most of them, even recognizing a check-off by back-up quarterback Bill Hardegree on one play. Eventually, he found his way into the endzone, the highlight moment of a special night.
“It felt great,” Hewett said. “I almost didn’t get the chance. I got the wind knocked out of me the play before. Everybody wanted me to stay out there, but I’m like, you don’t understand. Every player on the sideline told me I had to go back in. They said I’d regret it if I didn’t. And, even five minutes after that, I’m glad I did.”
For his part, Hewett has decided to keep playing.
“I’m not in good shape at all,” Hewett admitted. “I’ve been working out for five years and doing a little running, but that’s all. I’m not anywhere near in the shape they’re in.
“Playing against an OVC opponent would be awesome, though.”
UT Martin is at home Thursday night against conference rival Murray State, kickoff at 6 p.m. So, be on the lookout for a navy blue jersey with number 22. Published in The WCP 9.20.11