Yetur Gross-Matos brings positive outlook to his NFL dreams

Brady Pfister

Former Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is resilient, but not in the type of way football fans are used to.

He’s more than a hard-nosed athlete who can make a big play with the game on the line. Outside of football, Gross-Matos has endured intense hardship, forming him into the man he is today.

When he was two years old, his father, Micahel, was killed in a boating accident in the act of saving Yetur. Nine years later, Gross-Matos lost his brother when he was struck by lightning during a Little League baseball game.

As he has learned to deal with tragedy way bigger than football, Gross-Matos developed an incredible outlook on life, even when it seemed to be working against him.

“I think the biggest thing is just staying positive throughout all the things I’ve faced in my life,” Gross-Matos said at the NFL Combine in February. “Just being inside and moping around isn’t going to change anything.”

Despite seemingly unshakable childhood trauma, Gross-Matos hangs his hat on his work ethic--he’s never being one to solely rely on his overflow of athletic talent nor use his circumstances as an excuse, though it would be more than warranted.

“I’ve been an effort guy all my life,” Gross-Matos said. “When things are hard, you can only do what’s right.”

The Viriginia-native played three years at Penn State where this grit was on full display. In his sophomore season, Gross-Matos recorded 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks on his way to earning third-team All-Big Ten honors.

In his junior year he would likely have held a claim as the conference’s best defensive lineman, if it weren’t for Chase Young. Still, he collected 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. That output was enough to land Gross-Matos on the first-team All-Big Ten list before he declared for the NFL Draft.

At 6-5, 266 pounds, Gross-Matos translates to the professional ranks as a 4-3 defensive end with the ideal combination of agility, athleticism and strength. Scouts love his short-burst ability in the trenches as well as motor to chase ball carriers down in the backfield.

On the flipside, there are some concerns over how quickly he gets his hands on offensive linemen once the ball is snapped, allowing bigger players to control him. This combination of strengths and weaknesses has him rated as a boom or bust prospect, according to

Though the Falcons have addressed their pass rushing needs by signing Dante Fowler Jr., some experts still predict Atlanta will select a defensive lineman with the 16th overall pick. Gross-Matos could be a good fit as a true 4-3 edge rusher, complimenting Fowler who can serve as a stand-up outside linebacker off the edge.

Whether he goes to Atlanta or not, Gross-Matos is grateful to be where he is today.

“Just to see how my life has turned out, and my career, it’s something I never even dreamed of,” he said.