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An Inside Texas conversation with Westlake head coach Derek Long on offensive lineman Matt Nader, who has been forced to give up football due to a heart condition, but will be joining the Texas football staff this fall as a student assistant coach:
Inside Texas: When he was with your team, did he show good leadership skills in terms of something that might translate into coaching?
Derek Long: Oh yeah. He was in a situation where he was devastated. He had his whole life turned upside down, but you never saw him not smiling when he came around the team. You never saw him when he wasn't pumping the guys up, getting excited, urging them on. And you know he didn't feel like that all the time. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the way he's handled himself through all that. Not many of them are mature enough that they could have done that.
IT: This whole thing couldn't have been easy.
Long: No. I think everybody knows it was difficult, but I don't think you can understand how difficult unless you were on the inside. In football you're going to see people get hurt. We saw David Edwards have this catastrophic injury in '03 when we played Madison. When you carry someone off the field, there's always that hope that it's not a real serious injury. But this was a situation where they start CPR and the pull out the AED and you know right then it's life or death. That makes a real big impact on players, coaches, parents watching in the stands. This team is real fragile as far as, you know, trying to regroup and refocus. It makes you realize that there's more to life than football.
IT: What was kind of the first moment in dealing with Matt that you realized this is a special person?
Long: Well you know he's always been real focused. He's always worked real hard. He's one of these guys, from 7th grade he worked on getting faster, he worked on getting stronger, he ate the right foods. So his whole life has been focused on playing football. He was blessed with the physical body to have the ability to move to the college level. All the way up, in practices he wanted to do things right. He really worked hard to do all those things right. You know that's the kind of things that separate a good lineman from a great lineman. It's those little things that makes the difference and he wanted to do those little things right.
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UT Signing Day Bio: Will receive a scholarship but it will not count against Texas' numbers … granted an NCAA exception for a prospect who becomes injured or ill … is expected to serve as a student assistant coach at UT … helped Westlake to a 29-8-1 record in his three seasons, while twice earning academic all-district honors … a three-year starter as a prepster before suffering a heart arrhythmia during the third game of his senior year that forced him to give up football … spent the remainder of the 2006 season as a student coach, helping Westlake to a 12-3-1 record and a berth in the 5A State Championship game … earned academic all-district honors that year … led team to the bi-district finals with a 9-2 record as a junior … earned second-team 5A all-state honors from The Associated Press … also named first-team all-district 25-5A, academic all-district and All-CENTEX … tabbed second-team all-district 16-5A as a sophomore … helped the Chaparrals go 8-3 and reach the bi-district finals … also competed in the shot put and discus for the track and field team … won the district title in the discus as a sophomore … a four-year member of the honor roll … enjoys playing video games and is interested in becoming a sports broadcaster … uncle, Sam Nader, played quarterback at Auburn from 1963-67 and now serves as the Assistant AD for Football Administration at LSU … sister, Wallis, is currently a sophomore at UT … full name is Matthew Stephen Nader … born 4/5/89 in Austin.
Nader with his mother, Barbara Bergin
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All photos: Will Gallagher/Inside Texas