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Tyler Matakevich, college football's best defender, leaves it all on the field

The Owls senior won the Bronco Nagurski award for the nation's best defensive player this week.

Tyler Matakevich has five pass break ups in addition to his impressive tackle totals.Getty Images

If Temple head coach Matt Rhule set out to create the prototypical football player for his Owls squad, a nard-nosed defense first team that emphasizes fundamentals and hard work, he wouldn't need to fantasize.

He'd just need to look at No. 8, the redheaded senior captain, who doesn't have size or speed. And doesn't really have the measurables NFL head coaches covet either.

But he has grit. He leads all of college football in tackles. And he was selected earlier this week as the 2015 Bronco Nagurski award for the best defensive player in the nation.

"[Most recruiters]told me I was too small, too slow and I could not play at this level," Matakevich said. "It was everybody."

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"[Rhule] saw that I could be a hard-nosed, physical football player.All the time I always tell him thank you for bringing me here. He says, 'No, thank you.' I said, "You believed in me.' He said he saw potential."

Matakevich is the middle linebacker and runs the Owls' defense. And he's led the team to a team-record 10 victories, several top-25 rankings and a berth into the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (on Dec 22 against Toledo).

The senioris only the seventh player in FBS history to record more than 100 tackles in four different seasons. He also leads all linebackers with five interceptions.

Through 13 games in 2015he's accumulated 126 total tackles. He has 15 tackles for 62 yards in losses(4.5 sacks).

Matakevich said upon winning the award, beating out Penn State's Carl Nassib "unbelievable, awesome experience. Temple has had nobody here to win it. It is a humbling experience."

 

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