Moliki Matavao was highly regarded coming into Oregon, but with such a deep tight end room it looked challenging for him to see playing time right away. Now, with injuries to Patrick Herbert and Cam McCormick and with DJ Johnson playing some defensive end, Matavao is now in a prime position to earn a real opportunity in his freshman season.
Matavao certainly took advantage of the added playing time against the Buckeyes last Saturday as he caught his first college pass in a huge spot, a touchdown to put the Ducks up 14 in the second half. He's still in awe over the opportunity he's been given, but he isn’t surprised he made the play.
“Definitely unreal---training, practice all of fall camp, all of spring ball. Seeing the play call and knew what I had to do because it was a play looking for the tight end on that corner, and catching the ball, bringing it in is just an unreal feeling.” Matavao said. “Especially in that big environment, made it feel like dang you know, I made it.”
When the play call came in, Matavao got excited as he knew that if he did his job the ball was going to him, along with a chance to put six on the board.
“If I do everything right, it'll come to me. So, in my head I made sure I did everything right and it worked out!” he said. “I saw the ball in the air. And I was like, 'Alright, let's grab the ball and score a touchdown' and that's exactly what happened.”
The environment at Ohio Stadium was unbelievable on Saturday. With raging fans pounding on the walls and screaming their heads off, it's a lot to take in. Especially for the true freshman Matavao, it was something many players never get to experience until they get to the college level.
“Unreal, I walked out there when we broke out of the locker room walking out and see 100,000 people," he said. "It’s crazy seeing that I'm in the environment, the biggest environment in football."
The Nevada native is one of many players that will tell you that he was craving that atmosphere. The big stage. It was part of the reason he chose to become a Duck.
"I came here to play for that reason, contend for national championships, help this team anyway, go as far as possible.”
It was a brutal site to see Cam McCormick go down with another injury, especially for Matavao, as McCormick meant so much to him both as a player and friend on the team since he arrived in Eugene in January.
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“I feel for him, especially during the whole spring, he was kind of like my big brother.” Matavao said. “He's a big aspect of where I am in my game. And just to see him go down, I was like, let's do it for him because 'cuz he deserves everything he should be having. Just prayers to him and he'll be back and it's just good to know that he's still in our room.”
Some may have noticed that Matavao is wearing the number 8 for the Ducks, a number not worn on offense since Heisman winner Marcus Mariota wore it while leading the Ducks to a national championship appearance in 2015.
I wondered if there was any significance to it or if he had asked Mariota about it, but it turns out there isn’t much of a story to it at all.
“Not really it was just the number I was given and it's a number held with high standards, and I'm just trying to keep it rolling.” Matavao said. “They had a set of numbers that I can have, I was like 'Alright, let's just roll with eight!”
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