Mt. Lebanon’s Hoffman picks Penn

Published Aug 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm (Updated Aug 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm)

Matt Hoffman measures success in letter grades. In the classroom, he aims for A’s. In life, he focuses on F’s. Both, actually, are perfectly positive. See, he owns a 4.6 GPA at Mt. Lebanon High School. Plus, the senior scores just as well in the faith, family and football department.

“Matt represents the epitome of what we would like all of our football players to be: a champion on and off the field,” said Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Melnyk. “Matt has worked extremely hard to become the player he is and just as hard on becoming a model citizen and outstanding student.”

Born Oct. 14, 1997, the first son of Mike and Christy Hoffman, Matt modeled himself after his parents. His dad is vice president, charitable planning consultant at Fidelity Investments, Fidelity Charitable. “I always said ‘when I grow up, I want to be like my dad.’ That was set in stone. The thing that always stuck with me was when he’d tell me that ‘God, gave me the ability to make a lot of money, so the more you can give it away.’”

Currently, the younger Hoffman doesn’t have that much money to give away but he just might once he graduates from the University of Pennsylvania. He will major in behavioral economics in the prestigious Wharton School of Business. The 6-3, 251-pound lineman will also play football for the Quakers. Hoffman picked Penn for plenty of reasons.

On a personal note, Hoffman cited the Philly cheese steak as a factor. “[The sandwich] originated there. That’s my favorite food,” said Hoffman, demonstrating both his sense of history and humor, before returning to his more serious side. Villanova also influenced his decision. The school is his father’s alma mater. Plus, Penn plays the Wilcats every year.

Location, scenery and academics, however, proved the difference between his other choices. Pitt recruited him after his breakout sophomore season. “I was big,” explained Hoffman. “I was an offensive lineman. [Former Lebo skipper], Chris Haering was coaching there. Pitt invited me to a game. They came to see me play. [Interest] tapered off when I seemed to stop growing.”

However, Pitt and Penn State, which he also visited, proved too close to home. Other Ivy League schools like Princeton and Cornell, as well as Bucknell, were outside Hoffman’s comfort zone.

“My No 1 big thing was that I wanted distance. Not too far away, not too close,” he said. “Penn is only five hours from Pittsburgh. I could drive or take a bus there, while the other Ivy League schools were 10 hours away and I would have to fly.

“Definitely, the location was important so was the campus. It’s beautiful,” Hoffman said, noting the scenery.

“Of course, I wanted the best academics I could get. Penn has a strong program. No. 1 in the country,” he said of the Wharton School of Business.

Attending Penn comes with a cost. There are no athletic scholarships awarded at Ivy League Colleges. “They tell you that when you go there, but they also have this saying that once you graduate, you have a 44-year scholarship after that. If you graduate, you are set for life. Having a job was more important to me. I wanted to be assured of a career after I get out of college.”

While it is not unheard of for an Ivy Leaguer to get a shot at a professional career, Hoffman puts his fate in his faith. Knowing football is just a game and that injuries can curtail careers and dreams, Hoffman clings to reliable concepts. “No. 1 is my faith and my family. No. 2 is academics and getting a good education.

“When I struggled with my [college] decision, I put it in God’s hands. I know that I am never disappointed when I put my faith in God. One of the things I remembered about Penn was that it had a Catholic church on campus and I’m Catholic,” said the St. Bernard parishioner. “I just got the feeling I could see myself playing and studying [at Penn] for the next for years.”

For this fall, however, Hoffman sees himself helping Mt. Lebanon win a championship. While his personal goals are to be invited to play in the Big 33 Classic and possibly make the all-state team, he hopes to pave Lebo’s way to Heinz Field. “The ultimate goal for every is a WPIAL championship and we’d definitely like to get that title, it’s one game at a time.”

Since he started playing football in fifth grade at Mellon Junior High, Hoffman has played every game, never experiencing sitting on the bench. While he is slated to be a defensive end at Penn, he’s been a two-way lineman for the Blue Devils since his sophomore year. He prefers defense to offense.

“I like to go after guys. Be relentless. Be on the attack and show off my ability,” said Hoffman, who played two seasons of varsity basketball and one year of baseball at Lebo before focusing just on football. “In a sense, while they are similar, there is something definitely different between the feel of a pancake block on offense and a sack on defense.”

Sacks count statistically, but few high schools keep track of pancake blocks. But, they do monitor pass receptions and because tight ends can haul in the pigskin, Hoffman desired to play that position after a fine freshman season. “I wanted to contribute and be a superstar,” Hoffman said with a laugh. “Sophomore year though, my coach moved me to O-line. Lumped me in with all the big guys. I figured I wasn’t going to get much playing time.

“I prayed for something to happen,” Hoffman continued. When one of the tackles went down with a injury, he had his answer. God wanted him to be a lineman, too. Next thing Hoffman knew, he was starting every game.

“I tell everybody, ‘you are only one play away from getting in. Be ready,’” Hoffman said.

“God had a plan for me. He has a plan for everything. I know it wasn’t the worst thing I have or will experience but I faced the adversity. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.”

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