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150+ Students Train with NFL's Tyler Matakevich!

150+ Students Train with NFL's Tyler Matakevich!
Bills Linebacker Tyler Matakevich Returns to St. Joe’s to Host 5th Annual Football Clinic
written by Kathryn Murano ‘26
Tyler Matakevich 2024

On Saturday, June 29, more than 150 campers between grades 5 and 8 gathered at Dalling Field at St. Joseph High School for the annual Tyler Matakevich Football Clinic. The clinic featured St. Joes alumni, Tyler Matakevich, from the Buffalo Bills and Jaden Shirden from the Carolina Panthers, as well as Joe Giles-Harris from the New England Patriots and Ryan Van Demark from the Bills. With support from St. Joe’s varsity football head coach, Joe Della Vecchia, as well as current and former members of the St. Joe’s football team, the day was a great success. The campers split into groups and rotated through drills and skills instruction. Afterwards, there was time for them to get autographs and take pictures with the football players who inspired and instructed them.

Shirden is a running back for the Panthers. He graduated from St. Joe’s in 2020 and went on to play Division I college football at Monmouth as an all-state running back. In December 2023, he entered into the NFL draft. He agreed to contract terms with the Panthers at the conclusion of the 2024 draft. After returning to St. Joe’s in March to speak to the cadets as a part of the Athletics Speaker Series, Shirden came back once again to help assist at this weekend’s clinic.

Giles-Harris and Van Demark were two other NFL players who volunteered their time to help give back to the St. Joe’s community alongside Matakevich and Shirden. Giles-Harris is a linebacker for the Patriots who played college football at Duke. He was signed by the Patriots in August of 2023 after having played for the Bills starting in 2021 and the Jacksonville Jaguars starting in 2019. Van Demark is an offensive tackle for the Bills who played college football at University of Connecticut. He has been playing for the Bills since 2022. 

The camp’s namesake, Matakevich, headed and instructed the campers through the majority of their skills instruction. Matakevich graduated St. Joe’s in 2011 after leading the Hogs to two straight state high school football titles. He played Division I football at Temple University and broke the school record for career tackles. 

I had the privilege and opportunity to speak to Matakevich about his career and learn some more about his love for the St. Joe’s community and his commitment to giving back.

Brief synopsis of your personal career, and how you entered into the world of professional football?

“I came to St. Joe’s, then I went to Temple University in Philadelphia. After that, I ended up getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, so I spent my first four years in Pittsburgh, and I just finished up my fourth year in Buffalo, so for a total of eight years. I can’t even believe that I’ve already been in the NFL for eight years, it’s kind of surreal.”

What about your time at St. Joe’s inspired you to go into professional football and assured you that was what you wanted to do?

“I would definitely say the work ethic. It showed me so much about life, and football, and it taught me about perspective, hard work, determination, and good morals. Things like good qualities in a person, what it takes to work hard and as long as you keep your head down and keep working, all good things are going to happen.”

Why are you so inspired to come back each year? 

“Everyone who knows me, they know I always rock St. Joe’s stuff. Still, to this day, I take a lot of pride in it. I’ve been around St. Joe’s since I was even younger than all these kids, with my dad coaching, with Coach Dell and stuff, so St. Joe’s has just been a huge part of my life. And that’s why I love coming back here, doing the camp for the kids, just because I remember when I was their age. When I was their age, it was always cool to just see high school kids from the team. So now that I’m able to bring some of my buddies that I play with in the NFL, the kids could care less about the drills. You start talking about the players, the kids lose their minds. It’s always so funny, it puts things in perspective.”

What is your favorite part about instructing this clinic?

“Just the joy, seeing the joy these kids get from hanging out with us and working. They’re just so happy to be out here running around, they love to ask us silly questions, it’s always comical. It makes me feel so good to come back to St. Joe’s and give back. I always said that when I was younger, I wanted to come back, and the fact that I’ve been able to do this for five years now is just amazing.”

Thank you to everybody who made this day possible, including Coach Dell, current St. Joe’s football players for volunteering their time and talents, and everyone involved in setting up and organizing the clinic. An especially large thank you to Matakevich and his fellow players for their commitment to giving back and providing opportunities for youth football. Their instruction inspires a whole generation of athletes.