Player Spotlight: Yetur Gross-Matos
Junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is trying to be the first defensive player from Penn State to be drafted in the first round since 2010.
As an impressive defender in both the run and the pass game, that’s where many experts anticipate him to go. Gross-Matos has 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss so far this season, and there’s still much time left to build on that resume.
But how he’s got to the position he’s in today has been anything but unchallenging.
When Gross-Matos was two years old, during a boating trip, he fell overboard into the river. Gross-Matos’ biological father, Michael Gross, along with his father, both jumped in to save him and succeeded. However, Michael sadly drowned in the process.
Then, when Gross-Matos was 11, during a rain delay of one of their little league baseball games, his older brother Chelal was struck directly by a lightning bolt and tragically killed.
Gross-Matos carries his father and brother with him every single day. He believes the fact that he’s still alive following all that tragedy means that there’s a reason for him being here, and that he has a purpose to fulfill. It’s what drives him to play more than anything.
Penn State enters a huge battle on Saturday, against Minnesota, they will most certainly be with him and Gross-Matos is most certainly going to have a purpose – which is going to be wreaking havoc against the Minnesota offensive-line.
At the team’s weekly press conference on Tuesday, Gross-Matos provided some of his own insight about Minnesota being a team that likes to rely heavily on running the football and dominating the time of possession.
“We’ve got to get after it on first and second down and put those guys in negative yardage situations or no gain, so we have a better chance of getting off the field,” said Gross-Matos.
Gross-Matos should be very well rested, and ready to go after the bye week.
“I was [at Penn State] all weekend. I just spent a lot more time in the film room, and with my teammates and in the recovery beds, taking advantage of having that chance to get some rest,” Gross-Matos said.
The rest of the defense should be very well-received as well. All starters are healthy, except Antonio Shelton will not be suiting up due to a suspension for spitting on Michigan State offensive-lineman Matt Allen during their contest in week nine. PJ Mustipher will be his replacement.
When Gross-Matos was asked about Mustipher, and to describe him in one word, he didn’t delay.
“Hard-working. He’s always someone after practice, who you can find on the sled, by himself or in a group. Every Tuesday and Wednesday (work days) he’s out there striking the sled and getting some extra work in.”
Gross-Matos says that he and the rest of the defense has the utmost confidence in Mustipher. Gross-Matos was presented with questions about some other teammates as well, particularly, redshirt freshman left-tackle Rasheed Walker who has been impressive.
“The biggest growth with him was over spring ball. At first, it was obvious he was learning things, and stepping into a new role. But I think his confidence from that point, to the beginning of the season, to now has grown so much. I think he’s grown into one of the better players on this team. He’s done a great job.”
Head-coach James Franklin is notorious for the 1-0 weekly mentality that he has established with the team. Gross-Matos was questioned about when he really started to take that seriously.
“I’d say when I got back to school from over the summer, and going into camp… Some teams try to prepare differently based on what week it is, and the opponent, we approach it all the same way,” Gross-Matos said. “With that mindset I feel like it creates a culture of winning.”
The 1-0 mantra seems to have done well for the Nittany Lions so far, as they are currently ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. Although, when asked about the rankings and if Gross-Matos himself will be looking at them, he grinned and replied.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.