USC offensive guard Fred Matua decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2006 NFL draft. His decision is easy to understand when you realize all he has accomplished during his three seasons with the Trojans.
Aside from being a member of the 2003 and 2004 USC National Championship teams, Matua blocked for three Heisman Trophy winners: Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Matua admits he enjoyed Bush receiving the Heisman last year a little more than the others. In fact, he mentioned it as the achievement he was most proud of during his collegiate career.
"For a running back to get the Heisman, I think that speaks for the offensive line. A quarterback has to throw to someone so some credit could go to wide receivers, but when you're talking running backs, he can't run through holes unless he has a good O-line to open it up. That was a testament to our playing abilities," Matua said.
At 6'3, 306 pounds, Matua could be considered undersized for an NFL guard. He makes up for it with his agility and quickness. Matua ran his 40-yard dash in 5.04 seconds, a remarkable time for an offensive guard.
"My ability to be quicker than the defensive lineman has been something that has been the key to my success…more so this year than ever. If you look at tape, there have been a lot of bigger guys that I've gone against, guys who were 6-foot-6, 300-plus, and the key for me has been to be quicker and beat them down quarter after quarter until they quit," he said.
Offensive guard is his listed position, but Matua can also play center and is a very effective long-snapper. He played center during several games his junior season at USC, and some draft experts could see him playing the position as a pro. Matua doesn't care where he plays, just give him a helmet and pads and he'll be happy.
"For me, I just want to play. If they want me to play center, I'll play center. It really isn't a big deal. I just want to get in there and see what the team needs. If the situation tells me to play center I have no problem. If they want me to play guard, wide receiver, quarterback, whatever man…I just want to play," Matua said.
Matua is hard to miss on the football field; he is well known for displaying his passion for the game. Sometimes this is done through celebrations, screaming or one of his favorite pastimes – trash talking.
"Some people think that trash talking is left to the defensive guys. I just feel that if you're going to go against me you're not just physically going against me, but also mentally. They have to be ready when they get beat to hear what I have to say…it's not pleasant. It's just something they have to go through; this ain't no walk in the park or catfight. I'm coming out there to take some heads off," he said.
Matua was among 19 draft eligible players that took part in USC's pro day, and his performance was one of the highlights. Gil Brandt, NFL.com senior analyst, said of Matua, "For a guy over 300 pounds to run a 40-yard dash in a theoretical time under five seconds, he made a lot of money today and will shoot up draft boards."
Matua believes his passion for the game will lead to a long, successful NFL career. "Beethoven knew how to play piano, scientists do their thing, teachers know how to teach, I feel like I just know how to play football and I love it. The key is, the love of the game is what keeps people in it and I have a love for the game that is very strong," he said.
ColtPower Insiders can read our exclusive Q&A with Fred Matua where he talks about having fun, working hard, and his Pro Day and Combine experiences.