A few years ago, Matt Myers was an 11-year-old quarterback hopeful who faced two foes:
The girth that enveloped him, and his older brother, Jack Jr.
At one point, every day in the Myers household was a battle between Matt and his older brother.
“Matt, you’re fat!” Jack Jr. would say to him.
“It was an older brother thing, but it really got to Matt,” said his mother, Pat. “And finally, he did something about it.”
Throwing a tantrum would do no good. Instead, Matt stayed composed and focused on playing sports. He shed the weight, even though his older brother still found ways to keep the verbal jabs going, as older brothers are wont to do.
Matt blossomed into a formidable athlete. A champion, even. He became one of the state’s top dual-threat scholastic quarterbacks two years ago at West Seneca West, leading the Indians to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A football championship in November of 2017.
Now, Matt is a college quarterback. He made his first start in the University at Buffalo’s 38-10 win over Robert Morris on Thursday at UB Stadium.
“There was a little butterflies in the stomach, in pregame,” Myers said. “But as the game went on, the first snap, it was more of just playing football. And I kept on telling myself that. ‘You’re playing football, so play your game and you’ll be fine.’ ”
Myers kept his cool during the game and even after the game, when he met with the media for the third time in a week since he was announced Aug. 22 as UB’s starting quarterback.
Myers’ statistics in his first college start weren’t eye-popping. He finished 5-for-10 passing for 69 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 47 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
What impressed many of the 18,412 in attendance at UB Stadium was the poise of a redshirt freshman who had never before thrown a pass in college.
“We’re not sure where that cool comes from,” said Pat, who works for an orthopaedic company. “We always say that to ourselves, that we’re not sure where Matt gets that.”
Jack, Myers' father, believes that certain insouciance comes from his son’s confidence.
“He knows not to let his emotions get too high or too low,” said Jack, who is an engineer for Praxair in Niagara Falls. “He knew that, even as a 10-year-old. But I don’t know. I think he just watched pro athletes do it, too. But as a quarterback, out of all the positions, everybody’s looking at you in the huddle so you have to be even keel. It’s the position that makes you do that, too.”
Pat and Jack sat in the designated family seating area Thursday at UB Stadium, and Matt's older sister, Jenna, sat with a group of more than 20 friends on the opposite side of the stadium. You couldn’t miss the Myers clan, either. They all wore matching blue-and-white UB jerseys emblazoned with the number 10. The nameplate on the back of Jack Sr.’s jersey read “DAD.” The nameplate on Pat’s read “MOM.”
As the sun dipped below the top of the west side of the stadium, Jack and Pat shielded the sun from their eyes and watched as their son line up behind UB center Mike Novitsky in his first series of the season.
They hadn’t seen their son start a game since the 2017 Class A championship.
“We were more nervous than him,” Jack said. “But he’s very calm and cool, and we’re not sure how he does it. The coaches help him, and the teammates help him through that.”
His family watched Myers endure a hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of spring practices. That should have been a pivotal time for Myers to prove his value as a potential starting quarterback.
“He got frustrated,” Jack said. “He couldn’t help out and contribute, but he just had faith in himself and the medical staff definitely helped. Come June, when it totally healed, he just kicked it in.”
Matt Myers also stayed patient, especially considering that he hadn’t thrown a pass in a live game in nearly 21 months.
“We knew that coming into this, he had to bide his time and earn his spot,” Pat said. “It’s the name of the game.”
As for the nerves, the Myers family didn’t show any. As soon as Myers lined up in his first series, about 2 1/2 minutes into the game, Pat and Jack leaped to their feet, surrounded by cheers of other UB football parents, the blare of the marching band and the clanging of cowbells.
Jack Sr. again shielded his eyes from the sun as Matt and the Bulls' offense lined up at the Robert Morris 25-yard line, after the Bulls recovered a blocked punt by Theo Anderson. The Bulls needed two plays to reach the Robert Morris 3. On first and goal, Jack watched as the UB offensive line pushed in one direction and his son pivoted the opposite way to score his first college touchdown.
By then, the anxiousness had subsided for everyone in the Myers family.
Matt threw for two touchdowns in the first half – a 40-yard pass to Zac Lefebvre at the end of the first quarter and a 3-yard pass to Lefebvre with 34 seconds left in the half – but the ebb and flow of the game didn’t give him a lot of opportunities to throw the ball in the second half. He went 0 for 3 in the third quarter and was lifted about 90 seconds into the fourth for backup Kyle Vantrease.
“The RPOs (run-pass options) and things like that, he didn’t hesitate to keep the ball,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “That’s almost like trying to get yourself established as a thrower. I thought he had a good command. He’s a pretty even-keel guy. He didn’t get rattled by anything.”
When asked to evaluate his first start, Myers wasn’t as descriptive as his coach.
“There’s always room for improvement, and that’s what’s exciting,” Myers said. “We have a big week next week, and I’ll be ready to improve.”
Myers will get his second start when UB plays in front of more than 106,000 on Sept. 7 at Penn State, a storied football cauldron compared to UB Stadium’s intimate quarters.
What does Myers need to do to improve as the Bulls prepare for No. 15 Penn State?
“Everything,” Myers said.
Anything in particular?
“Everything,” Myers insisted, with a wry smile.
He wouldn’t give specifics. He wasn’t going to let those thoughts bother him, either, not in the wake of his first win as a college quarterback.
That’s just not his style.