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Quarterback Matt Tittle

 

Football Feature

Quarterback Matt Tittle

October 29, 1998

By Greg Hulen

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence - persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Those words spoken by President Calvin Coolidge could apply to many things about the Texas Tech Red Raiders, including the career of quarterback Matt Tittle. For four years, Tittle sat in the wings waiting for his turn to take the helm. He practiced hard. He studied the offense. He earned the respect of his teammates.

The Texas Tech coaching staff and players have never needed to be convinced the Flower Mound native could play quarterback. Standing at 6-3, 215-pounds, he possesses all the physical tools to be an effective quarterback. At Flower Mound High School, he set three school records by completing 176 of 334 passes for 2,550 yards and 14 touchdowns. After his redshirt year in 1994, Tittle was listed third-string on the depth chart. Nagging injuries such as tendinitis and ankle sprains hampered his performance at practice and held him back. After having been a star in high school, the situation frustrated him. He even considered transferring to another school. Fortunately for Texas Tech, he didn't.

"I did look into quite a few schools," said Tittle. "I was pretty close to wanting to leave, but nothing panned out that I was happy with. It wasn't the fact that I was unhappy with Texas Tech, but I wanted to play football. I love the school and the people and I've always had a good time here. I was just looking for a place where I could go in and play football. I have to say now I'm glad I didn't leave."

Throughout his career, when given the opportunity, Tittle has done well. In the 1995 spring game he was the leading passer with 101 yards. He followed that up with 107 yards in the 1998 spring game.

Several times throughout August during two-a-day drills, head coach Spike Dykes told the media that Tittle looked better than the highly talented starting quarterback Rob Peters during some practices. Yet, many discounted the remarks as just a coach trying to talk-up one of his players. Once again, the focus was on the other quarterback.

It would have been easy for Tittle to become frustrated, lose his focus and give up. Yet, in his fifth year as backup, he didn't. He knew he had an important role to play for the Red Raiders to have a successful season. He saw the bigger team picture. Tittle worked hard and continued to prepare as he was going to play - a fact which didn't escape the watchful eye of the coaching staff.

"I think the best compliment you can pay someone is that they are a team player," offensive coordinator Rick Dykes said. "I think Matt is the ultimate team player. He knows what his role is on the team and does everything that we ask of him. The coaching staff has confidence in Matt that he can go in and win a football game like he has shown us this year. He understands what is expected out of him. He doesn't complain and just puts the team first."

Then it happened. Early in the first game of the season against Texas El-Paso, Rob Peters hit the ground hard, injuring his shoulder. Peters later learned that he had also, at some point, suffered a broken thumb. Coach Dykes looked to Tittle and told him to get out on the field. Suddenly, the moment he had waited on for so long was at hand.

Despite only one pass attempt and completion in his entire collegiate career, Tittle entered the Texas Tech huddle with all the confidence and knowledge that his five years with the team had given him. There was no doubt the team would be in good hands.

"The guys respect Matt," Rick Dykes said. "His teammates know the road he has had, how hard he has worked and know he can win. When Matt stepped in that huddle against UTEP, they knew it was time to go to work and they really responded well."

In his first major amount of playing time, Tittle finished with 10 completions on 18 attempts for 172 yards and a touchdown as Texas Tech prevailed, 35-3. Tittle connected on passes of 60 yards and 45 yards with Donnie Hart.

For the quarterback who had struggled through so many seasons to play, the moment to shine was a great time of happiness.

"Throwing that first touchdown pass against UTEP, it was a great feeling, since it was the first time I'd been in a real game since high school," Tittle said. "I felt like a big burden had been lifted off me.

"You never know what is going to happen next. My Dad has always told me that coming up through this process. I think you saw a prime example when Rob went down early in the game and I had to go in and perform. I think all the hard work I put in and being in the offense for four years allowed me to help the team win the ball game."

Tittle would go on to help guide the Red Raiders to four wins. He made his first collegiate start against North Texas and also started against Fresno State, Iowa State and Baylor.

"Thank goodness for Matt Tittle," Dykes said. "He was a savior in that deal. I really thought he would do well, but I was surprised that he didn't have more trouble. I thought he was really cohesive with everything he did."

In his stint as the starting quarterback, Tittle finished with five touchdown passes and over 200 yards passing in games against North Texas and Iowa State. He also recorded the longest touchdown pass of the season by any quarterback on the team with a 68-yard bomb to Donnie Hart against the Cyclones. Most importantly, his play allowed the Red Raiders to maintain and build upon their strong start in 1998.

"I knew I probably wouldn't get to start this season, but the coaches told me I'd probably get to play some because I had done well in the spring," Tittle said. "All I could do was work hard in the summertime and go from there. You always have some doubts if you are going to play and wonder 'what if?', but now I can't do that anymore because I've had my chance. It's great, we've had a winning season so far. It's nice to go out with a bang for your senior year."

Now Rob Peters has returned to the starting lineup and performed up to high expectations while Tittle has returned to a backup role. Yet, most Texas Tech fans will tell you that with Peters' hard-nosed style of football, Tittle may be summoned to take the helm once again. But each time Peters runs the ball against punishing Big 12 defenses, Red Raiders everywhere can rest a little easier knowing they have another proven winner waiting in the wings if necessary.

"Any time you have two quarterbacks you feel you can win with, you feel a lot better," Rick Dykes said. "As physical as the Big 12 Conference can be, you have to have at least two quarterbacks you feel you can win with each week."

Now as Matt Tittle completes his career at Texas Tech, he can look back with no regrets. He proved to the players, coaches and, more importantly, himself that he could be a successful quarterback. On a broader scope, he learned that persistence, hard work and faith will eventually lead to personal goals.

"All my coaches have said that football teaches you a lot about life," Tittle said. "Especially at the quarterback position, you go through many ups and downs and you learn from your mistakes. In the real world you face many of the same situations. I've learned that you just face the situation and try to be successful."

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