MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– Redshirt senior Tony Matteo came to West Virginia University with hopes of starting for the Mountaineers. He was undoubtedly one of the hardest workers, but the guard has only found himself in a starting role twice in his career.
When senior Adam Pankey got suspended for the Missouri game the door opened for Matteo.
“It means everything to me,” Matteo said. “That’s why I am here. I am here to play. To make the team better. I am here to win so it’s a great opportunity to get on the field and play and hopefully win the game.”
The 6-foot-4, 302-pound offensive lineman has worked hard on and off the field for this moment.
“I’ve been here five years and I have worked really hard,” Matteo said.
The loss of Pankey could have been considered a huge loss for WVU considering they will face one of the toughest defensive lines in the country in the Tigers but the Mountaineers’ coaching staff isn’t fretting.
“Really just a few games of experience is it,” offensive line coach Ron Crook said. “Tony is one of our best workers in the weight room. He is one of our stronger guys. Football is extremely important to him. I am really excited about the preseason he’s had, the spring he’s had, the winter he’s had. He is ready for this. I don’t expect him to look any different from the exception that Adam has a few more games of experience.”
An ankle injury during the first week of camp slowed Matteo down and maybe even hindered his chance of earning the starting guard position. But Matteo’s head coach believes he is ready to go.
“I couldn’t feel better about his replacement,” head coach Dana Holgorsen. “The truth of the matter is, when Tony got hurt after week one, he was arguably our best guard after week one.”
Matteo’s teammates instill the same confidence in the senior as their coaches do.
“There isn’t much of a difference,” senior offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky said. “Both of them have played a lot. Obviously Pankey started more games than Tony. But Tony has a significant amount of playing time and I think I feel comfortable with Tony as much as I do Pankey.”
It ‘s been a long road for the Clinton, Ohio native. He could have easily transferred to a smaller school but he knew he belonged in the old gold and blue.
Matteo’s “love of the game” is what kept him going.
“It’s definitely a challenge. It was a long road, a long journey. I am glad that I am finally at this point. I’m here and I am ready to play Saturday.”
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS