The Spartan family is a close-knit one. Members of the Michigan State community look out for one another, on and off the field. Matt Sokol, hailing from a strong family, always dreamt of becoming a Spartan. On Monday, May 13, Sokol got his wish.
Class of 2014 recruit Matt Sokol flew under the radar for much of his recruiting process. The projected tight end prospect only received six scholarship offers, from schools such as Wisconsin, Illinois, and Bowling Green. Listed as an athlete, since he is a quarterback/tight end, Sokol has not yet been ranked by the recruiting services, and that is just fine.
None of that matters to Sokol. He is an old school football player. The junior at Rochester Adams High School (with a 3.3 GPA) was simply excited that his dream of attaining a football scholarship to pay for college would be fulfilled. He recently joined Hondo on Spartan Nation Radio to talk about the process.
The moment he received his first offer, from Bowling Green, Sokol could not contain his emotions. â€œIt really made me sit down and take a deep breath, and say to myself, â€˜Your dream is real, you have an opportunity to do something that not a lot of people get to do in their life.â€™ I felt very blessed. It was just one of those moments in my life that Iâ€™m not going to forget,â€ he said. â€œFrom that day on, as more opportunities came, I just couldnâ€™t stop thinking about how lucky and blessed I am.â€
One of the opportunities that presented itself was a scholarship offer from Michigan State. Dantonio and his staff recognized Sokolâ€™s talent early on in the process, watching him grow as a player.
Though Sokol continued to play quarterback, his body developed into a frame more suited for the tight end position. As the 6â€™5, 226 pound junior experimented with the position, Sokol decided that he would be best suited for tight end.
â€œIâ€™ve really fallen in love with playing tight end, especially in the past couple of months. I really love the aspect of catching the ball, getting off defenders and making catches,â€ Sokol told Hondo S. Carpenter on Spartan Nation Radio. â€œI feel like that is my best attribute as a player right now.â€
The Michigan State coaching staff realized that Sokol could make a big difference at tight end in a Green and White uniform. Dantonio extended a scholarship to the Rochester native, an offer that would prove too tantalizing for Sokol to turn down.
On May 13, ten days after receiving the offer, Sokol committed to MSU. â€œMichigan State is a school Iâ€™ve been excited about for a long time. Itâ€™s been a school Iâ€™ve always dreamed about playing at and having the opportunity to be a part of,â€ Sokol said. â€œTo be verbally committed to the Spartan family, itâ€™s a huge honor. I canâ€™t even tell you how excited I am about it. Thereâ€™s nothing but happiness, itâ€™s been all smiles since I committed. Iâ€™m very confident in my decision and I feel like it was a really good one.â€
Both Sokol and the Spartan coaching staff recognize that the exciting prospect will need time to develop. But Sokol chose the right school to hone his craft at. Michigan State has historically boasted talented tight ends. Kellen Davis, Garrett Celek, and Dion Sims currently all own a spot on an NFL roster. Plus, first-year Co-Offensive Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach Jim Bollman boasts 36 years of coaching experience. â€œIâ€™m really excited for Coach Bollman to coach me up and put some good weight on me so I can be a contributing factor in the run game down the road and also keep my speed and be able to catch the ball. Heâ€™s such a knowledgeable coach. Heâ€™s coached an array of really successful tight ends and successful players,â€ said Sokol. â€œIâ€™m so confident that heâ€™s going to mold me into a successful tight end.â€
The eager young player is also excited to play for Dantonio. The veteran coach was a major factor in Sokolâ€™s decision. â€œI have the utmost respect for Coach Dantonio. I think heâ€™s a really great man, a great coach,â€ Sokol stated. â€œHe really is a people person. He really knows how to communicate and understand people. Heâ€™s a class act all-around and heâ€™s a very successful coach.â€
Dantonio must be equally thrilled to have Sokol on board. In addition to having natural ability, the newest Spartan plays the game the right way. One football coach from an opposing team, which has faced off with Sokolâ€™s in the past, said, â€œSokol brings a lot to the table. I think the greatest attribute he has is not his size, not his toughness, although he has all of that, and neither is it his brain. Iâ€™ve never seen a player that good who respects the game of football the way he does. He doesnâ€™t trash talk, he doesnâ€™t run his mouth, he helps guys up. As an opposing coach, I can tell you, heâ€™s exactly what I wish every kid on my team was [like].â€
Much of Sokolâ€™s character comes from his family. Both of his parents are West Point grads and served their country bravely. Sokolâ€™s family as a whole is tight-knit. Matt heavily relied on his family to help him make his college choice. â€œIt was an all-around family decision, we all thought a lot about it and weâ€™re all confident in my decision,â€ Sokol said. â€œIt took a lot of thinking, it took a lot of nights staying up and thinking about it. Overall, this is the school that really fits me the best. I feel very comfortable there. [MSU is] everything is I want in a college and a program.â€
As many fathers and sons do, Matt and his dad have a close relationship. â€œI love my dad very much. He has done so much for me, he has been such an influential person in every aspect of my life, through football, relationships, everything. I do feel truly blessed to have a father like him,â€ Sokol said. â€œI really do look up to him as a role model to me. I do aspire to be like him one day and be as successful as he is. Heâ€™s just someone I look up to a lot and I hope to one day be the man that he is.â€
Matt also admires up to his mom, who has had a great deal of influence on his life. â€œMy mom does so much for me and my three brothers. She is the ultimate provider for all of us. There has never been a day where she has not been by my side,â€ Sokol said. â€œMy mom is such a special person in my life and I really wouldnâ€™t be the person I am without her.â€
The oldest child in the Sokol family, Matt is a major role model for his two younger brothers. He takes that responsibility seriously, and never wants to let them down. â€œBeing the oldest brother, I feel like I have the responsibility to show them what it is to be a real man. I think they look up to me. I donâ€™t look down to them, I look up to them. My brothers mean a lot to me, I care about them a lot, I would do anything for those two guys,â€ Sokol said. â€œI love watching them play. My little brother, Mark, whoâ€™s the middle brother, is really turning into a monster in the past couple of years. Weâ€™re going to be on the same [football] team next year. My littlest brother, Mitchell, is going to be a freshman, so all three of us are going to be at the same high school. Iâ€™m really excited for both of them. My brother Mitchell is an up and coming basketball superstar, heâ€™s going to dominate, I hope he gets taller than me. I would do anything for those guys, they mean the world to me. Iâ€™m blessed to have brothers like them.â€
Coming from a tight family, Sokol will feel right at home in East Lansing as a part of the Spartan family. A talented young football player with loads of character, Sokol will quickly become a valued member of the community.