Oct. 3, 2005
For most athletes playing in front of the home crowd is an opportunity to show-case talents and school pride, but for senior Matt Root it holds extra special meaning every time he steps out onto Bobby Bowden Field.
For this tight end it symbolizes his highs, lows and journey back to the top.
Tallahassee is where Root’s adventure has come full circle.
This California-born Seminole was raised in a football-loving household and was no stranger to the hard work and dedication that it takes to be successful on the gridiron. The Root family moved to Tallahassee
prior to Matt beginning high school partly to increase he and his brother’s chances of receiving football scholar-ships.
Root was originally groomed to be a quarterback by his father, Jack, who was a fullback at Stanford. But when he enrolled at Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian High School he discovered that the quarterback position had already been filled.
Root decided to give tight end a shot and it turned out to be the perfect fit.
“Root-Dog,” as he was nicknamed in high school, had an outstanding career with the Eagles and was highly touted to play Division I football on scholarship following his senior year. Florida State and
Notre Dame were Root’s two front-runners for his college selection, and after careful consideration, official visits and long discussions with his parents, Root decided to venture north to join the Fighting Irish.
South Bend, Ind., is where Root first discovered that things aren’t always what they seem, and that expectations don’t always turn into reality. The Notre Dame coaching staff wanted to move Root from
tight end to tackle, and after two disappointing seasons in the navy and gold as well as mounting frustration, Root decided to leave Notre Dame and return to his hometown of Tallahassee. Still itching to
don the helmet and pads, Root decided to try his luck at FSU.
One of the first people he contacted on the Florida State campus was John Lilly, who originally recruited him out of high school, to see if the Noles had any room for him on the roster. Fortunately for Root, there
was still a spot available for him, but it came with a hefty price tag. Root would have to swallow his pride and join the team no longer as a scholarship player, but as a walk-on.
Having to start his football career all over again could have been devastating for Root, but he turned to his
solid support system composed of his family, friends and church for encouragement. Root also knew that he had to set a strong example for his younger brother, Mark, who currently plays football at the Air Force Academy.
To Root, life as a walk-on was much different than what he was used to in the past.
One of the first things that he noticed was that many of the perks were gone and so was most of the special attention that he had received coming out of high school.
“I now had to work for everything I got,” Root said. “At Notre Dame I took being on scholarship for granted. I kind of had a bad attitude, so coming back to Florida State and having to walk on just
really humbled me. It was a good experience to go through.”
Root quickly learned that being a walk-on at Florida State wasn’t so much about the sacrifice and athleticism, but that it required much more of another characteristic — heart.
Being a walk-on at a large university with such a storied history can be discouraging, but “the guys that really have character and really love the game stay with it,” Root said. “You have to start at the
bottom and work your way up,” and that’s exactly what this hometown kid did.
The upward climb was well worth it for Root because football has always been his first love and a way of life. But this Seminole also has another passion, one that doesn’t include catching the pigskin. His other passion is Rock ‘n Roll.
“If I wasn’t playing football I’d be in a rock band. I played guitar a lot growing up, but I got too busy with sports,” Root said.
His curtain call is right around the corner as his career as a Seminole is about to come to an end, ironically in the same place that it began.
“At Notre Dame I never got the chance to show the coaches what I got because of injuries or this and that,” Root recounted.
His goals for the remainder of the season are simple.
“I want to be able to look back at the season and say that I gave it everything I had, and have no regrets and play to my full potential,” Root added.
That should be easy enough — after all there is no place like home!
By Erin Allison
FSU Sports Information