Anxious to Prove Himself
G Fred Matua is Ready to Show he has what it Takes to be a Top Guard in the NFL
By Chuck Klonke
April 30, 2006
|Matua is relieved to be with an NFL team at the conclusion of the draft. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel)|
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Fred Matua is coming to the Lions with a chip on his shoulder, which isn't always a bad thing.
The former USC guard is determined to prove that 31 other teams made a mistake by letting him slip to the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
"It puts more fuel into my fire -- and I already had a lot of that," said Matua, who was the first of two seventh-round selections by Detroit. "I'm just going to prove them wrong -- that they should have picked me earlier."
Matua called the wait "excruciating" as he watched several of his former Trojans teammates hear their names called. It was even tougher when several guards, who had been ranked below him on various draft lists, got the nod.
"Especially when guys you know are not better than you are getting drafted," Matua said. "I was rated as one of the top five guards by all the NFL analysts, and to see 10 or 12 guards picked in front of you is surprising. It had to be something besides my playing ability."
Those reasons have Matua baffled.
"A lot of teams said I had medical issues," he said. "I had a back injury as a freshman in high school. That probably was it. All I know is I played some great football for the Trojans."
That he did.
Matua blocked for three Heisman Trophy winners -- quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert and running back Reggie Bush -- as USC posted a 37-2 record in Matua's three years on the team.
Offensive line coach Larry Beightol is happy that Matua dropped into the Lions' lap.
"We think Fred is a real good prospect," Beightol said. "I'm surprised he was there in the seventh round. He played on a great college offensive team at USC.
|Lions Offensive Line Coach Larry Beightol is happy Matua dropped down to the Lions. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel).|
"He's a tough, hard-nosed kid with a big upside. I really like his demeanor. He's good at pulling and runs the power sweep well. He's a great value pick in the seventh round."
Matua will be used at guard initially, but Beightol can see him being versatile enough to play center if needed.
"You have a player with some versatility," Beightol said. "I think he can be a center along with playing either the right guard or the left guard position."
Matua, who came out after his junior year at USC, knows that he still has some work to do to be NFL-ready.
"I have plenty of flaws, just in my technique," he said. "But I know our OL coach is going to improve that. I have plenty of trust in him that he's going to make me a better player."
Matua will see a couple of familiar faces when he reports to the Lions. One is defensive lineman Shaun Cody, a former USC teammate, who was Detroit's second-round pick in 2005.
Another is offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, Detroit's fifth round pick out of Texas. Matua remembers him from January's national championship game at the Rose Bowl.
"College is college and the pros are the pros," Matua said. "It sucked losing to him, but we won a lot at USC, so I know how winning feels. I feel good for the guy. He's a great player. He did a great job on our D(efensive) ends."