When Matt Cary went to college, one of his prime considerations in picking a school was he wanted was a chance to play football.
Cary has turned that chance into a starting spot on the Northern Arizona University offensive line, where he plays left guard for the Lumberjacks. NAU (3-1), which plays in the Big Sky Conference with defending national champion Montana, is ranked No. 12 in The Sports Network Poll and No. 13 in the USA Today Poll for NCAA Division I-AA.
"He takes care of business," Northern Arizona's assistant head football coach and offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan said of Cary. "He's kind of a quiet soldier and the kids respect his work ethic."
As a high school player for the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, Cary's top football award was honorable mention all-Cook Inlet Football Conference as an offensive lineman. But that didn't stop him from sending a game tape to NAU in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Lumberjacks agreed to let Cary and his high school football and baseball teammate Jeremy Woodrow try out for the football team.
"I knew I wanted to come to school here," said Cary, a criminal justice major who is a senior academically and a junior in football eligibility. "But I wanted to keep playing football. When I got here, I realized I had a ways to go to be at this level."
Cary and Woodrow both spent the 1999-2000 school year on the sidelines as a redshirt players, athletes who are allowed to practice with the team but can't play in games for the season. This development year allows the athlete to still have four years of eligibility after the redshirt season is done. Woodrow stopped playing football after that redshirt season, but Cary stayed with the program.
"That redshirt year really gave me a chance to play later on," said Cary, who is 6-foot-3, 285 pounds. "I spent the year weightlifting, I gained 30 pounds and I was getting coached up. Being able to play at college is a much higher level than high school, and the transition is tough. I had to get stronger and learn the fundamentals. My hard work is paying off now. I'm thankful for having a scholarship and for being able to play."
After his redshirt year, Cary earned a partial scholarship for his freshman year. He earned a full scholarship last year, and he made his first three starts after NAU's center was injured at the end of the season. NAU went 8-4 last year, earning a berth in the NCAA Division I-AA national playoffs where the Lumberjacks lost 34-31 in the first round to Sam Houston State.
So far this year, NAU lost its opener 37-3 to NCAA Division I-A Arizona, then beat Cal Poly 31-24, Sam Houston State 40-14 and No. 9 Portland State 14-10.
Cary was just one of two players on the offensive line with starting experience, but the line has helped freshman running back Philo Sanchez average more than 100 yards rushing per game for his last three games. Junior quarterback Clint Womack earned national player of the week honors when he threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns against Sam Houston State.
"Things are going good," Cary said before the Portland State game. "In our last game we beat the team that beat us in the playoffs. We've got a nice balance of both running and passing."
Wiesehan said the secret to Cary's success stems from his work ethic.
"Matt is so focused and he's been able to develop quickly," Wiesehan said. "Going into the spring drills, Matt was still second team. But if you look at tapes from spring drills and now, it's like he's two different players. He pays attention and he has that willingness to improve. He's got great work ethic. He's a weight-room rat. He does it all."
Wiesehan said Cary's rate of improvement means he could be a dominant lineman in the Big Sky next season, and it could mean Cary gets a chance to continue playing football after his senior year next fall.
Three Alaskans have gone on to the NFL from Big Sky teams - tight end Rocky Klever (West Anchorage/Montana/New York Jets), offensive lineman Mark Schlereth (Service/Idaho/Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos) and defensive tackle Mao Tosi (Bartlett and East Anchorage/Idaho/Arizona Cardinals). Wiesehan said one reason players from small schools can still make the NFL is the players are getting a full season of repetitions in game situations with the small school, while they might be languishing on the bench at a bigger school.
"There's a lot of room for him to grow, and he's in a strong position to be a dominant player in the Big Sky next year," Wiesehan said. "I've told him (his potential) is in your control and what you're doing in the offseason. He's a burly kid and he moves well."
As far as Cary is concerned, the NFL is a dream. Cary said his immediate goals are simpler.
"If I'm given a look, I'll take it. Who wouldn't want to play in the NFL," Cary said. "But right now I've got smaller goals, like winning the conference championship."
As for Northern Arizona, Cary said he appreciates the chance he was given as a walk-on player. Cary, whose father Don was the Juneau-Douglas High School baseball coach for nine years, expects to graduate in May with a degree in criminal justice, then he'll go to graduate school in the fall to work on his master's degree while he plays one more year for NAU.
"They'll give you a chance, but it's up to you to put in the time," Cary said. "You have to prove you deserve a scholarship."
Western Washington University sophomore defensive tackle Lino Fenumiai (Juneau-Douglas) earned the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Week Award for Sept. 1-7. Fenumiai, who was making the first start of his college career, had seven tackles, including three for losses and one quarterback sack for eight yards, during the Vikings' 24-16 victory over the University of Central Oklahoma. That matched his entire freshman season production of seven tackles in nine games. For the season, Fenumiai has 14 tackles (six solo, eight assists) with three for losses and the one quarterback sack in three games. Fenumiai's teammate, sophomore tight end Rick Carte (Juneau-Douglas) has two catches for 19 yards in three games. Carte caught 10 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns last year. Western Washington is 3-0 and ranked 15th in NCAA Division II.
The University of Minnesota-Crookston features three Southeast football players among the 12 Alaskans on its roster - freshman offensive lineman Bret Russell, freshman tight end Jake Miller and freshman defensive lineman Zac Campbell (all three Juneau-Douglas). Miller and Campbell are both sitting out the season as redshirt players, while Russell is on the active roster but has yet to play for the 0-4 Eagles, who play at the NCAA Division II level.
Eastern Oregon University freshman quarterback Brett Fairchild (Juneau-Douglas) has yet to play this season for the NCAA Division III Mountaineers, who are 0-3 at the NCAA Division III level.
Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa, Calif., has three Southeast players on its football roster - sophomore tight end Justin Rose, freshman wide receiver Jacob Dutton and freshman defensive end Emil West (all three Juneau-Douglas). The Pirates are 2-1 this season, but no statistics were available.
Freshman midfielder Robert Lossett (Juneau-Douglas) is a walk-on player who made the roster at the University of Charlotte, an NCAA Division I school formerly known as the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Lossett has seen action off the bench in six games for the 49ers (6-2-0 overall, 3-1-0 in Conference USA), but has not yet taken a shot this season. Lossett was Alaska's Gatorade Player of the Year last year for the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears.
Gonzaga University redshirt freshman midfielder Justin Dorn (Juneau-Douglas) is sidelined for the season due to a knee injury he suffered last spring. Dorn, who was Alaska's Gatorade Player of the Year two years ago, sat out last year as a redshirt player, so he has yet to play for the Bulldogs in two seasons on the team. Gonzaga, which made the NCAA Division I national tournament last year, is 2-7-0 overall and 0-0-0 in the West Coast Conference so far this season.
Flagler College junior defenseman Jeremy Gleason (Juneau-Douglas) is back on the roster this year after missing last year with an injury. No stats were available for the Saints, who were ranked 25th in the NAIA Poll earlier this season. Flagler College is based in St. Augustine, Fla.
St. Olaf College senior forward Carolyn Detjen (Juneau-Douglas) scored four first-half goals to lead the Oles to an 8-0 victory over Marian College on Sept. 8. After leading the Oles in scoring her first two seasons, Detjen slipped to a tie for fourth in goals with four and second in assists with six last year. Detjen earned Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-MIAC honorable mention honors in 1999 and 2000, and she was all-MIAC academic all-conference last year. Detjen entered the season ranked second in all-time goals for St. Olaf with 26 (five behind the top player). She was tied for third in all-time assists with 10 (two behind the leader). Detjen had four goals and one assist through Sept. 21 for the Oles (4-2-0 overall), an NCAA Division III school based in Northfield, Minn.
Mary Washington College junior midfielder-defender Hannah Slotnick (Juneau-Douglas) has two goals and two assists in nine games (eight starts) for the Eagles, an NCAA Division III school based in the Washington, D.C., area. The Eagles are 6-2-1 this season.
Pomona-Pitzer junior midfielder Nobu Koch (Juneau-Douglas) is back for her third season with the NCAA Division III Mud Hens, who play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. No individual statistics were available for Pomona-Pitzer, which is 1-7-0 overall and 0-2-0 in the SCIAC with eight goals scored and 29 allowed.
Portland State University freshman Hilary Young (Juneau-Douglas) made the NCAA Division I team as walk-on and took 18th place in her first race, the 5-kilometer Pier Point Park race in Portland, Ore. Young posted a time of 20 minutes, 35 seconds, good for sixth among the Vikings, whose top runner was Jenny Rodgers of Valdez in third place. Young did not compete for Portland State when it sent its team to the University of Idaho Invitational and the Stanford Invitational.
University of Portland freshman Jesse Stringer (Juneau-Douglas) was listed in "The Harrier" magazine as one of the 60 most notable recruits in the nation, according to The Harrier's editor, Marc Bloom. Stringer is redshirting this year for the Pilots, who compete at the NCAA Division I level.
Western Oregon University freshman Brian Nowlin (Juneau-Douglas) made the team for the NCAA Division II Wolves, but has yet to compete this season.
Western State College redshirt freshman Brandy Weston (Juneau-Douglas) finished 18th in the Joe I. Vigil Open meet held Sept. 7 at Adams State College. Weston covered the 5K course in 20:53.54. Western State College is based in Gunnison, Colo., and its teams are the defending NCAA Division II men's and women's champions. Even though he hasn't run for the team in three years, Jim Shine (Juneau-Douglas) is listed on the Mountaineers' roster posted on the school's Web site. Shine was an all-American in both track and cross-country running for Western during the 1999-2000 school year and still has an unused season of eligibility.
Adams State College lists Carl Blackhurst (Haines) among its graduate assistant coaches. Blackhurst, a two-time Alaska small schools state champion at Haines, earned all-American honors in both cross-country running and track for Adams State and he finished second in the 2001 NCAA Division II national championship track meet in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event. Adams State is based in Alamosa, Colo. Blackhurst is training for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in the steeplechase.
Pacific Lutheran University junior Breea DeSloover (Juneau-Douglas) and freshman Sara Trask (Petersburg) both competed for the Lutes in the Sundodger Invitational meet hosted Sept. 21 by the University of Washington. DeSloover finished the 5K course in 18:56 to finish 42nd in the open division race, while Trask covered the course in 21:16 to finish 174th out of 215 women in the race. PLU, an NCAA Division III school in Tacoma, Wash., finished 15th in the team standings, which featured several NCAA Division II schools and even a couple of NCAA Division I JV teams.
Whitman College sophomore James Voelckers (Juneau-Douglas) finished 27th in Big Cross Invitational meet held Sept. 28 in Pasco, Wash., posting a time of 29:01 for the 8K men's course. Voelckers also competed in the Sundodger Invitational meet Sept. 21 in Seattle, placing 166th out of 248 runners in the men's open race with an 8K time of 28:01.7 as the Missionaries placed 22nd in the team standings. Whitman College is based in Walla Walla, Wash., and competes at the NCAA Division III level.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks volleyball team features two Southeast players on its roster - redshirt freshman outside hitter/defensive specialist Jessica Peters (Klawock) and freshman outside hitter Meggie Haydu (Craig). Both players are walk-ons for the NCAA Division II Nanooks (7-4 overall) and have seen limited action. Peters has been in three games and has one dig and one service error, while Haydu has been in one game and has one kill, one assist and one service error.
Whitman College freshman outside hitter Karna Williams (Petersburg) has seen limited action this season for the NCAA Division III Missionaries (5-7 overall), recording one block assist and one attack in two games played.
Linfield College freshman setter Zeta Moss (Ketchikan) is playing on the junior varsity team for the Wildcats. No stats were available for the Linfield JV team. Linfield is an NCAA Division III school based in McMinnville, Ore.
Auburn University junior Derek Gibb (a Petersburg graduate whose family now lives in Juneau) earned a spot on the U.S. team for the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, South Korea. Gibb will swim in the 50-meter freestyle for the American team. Gibb's college team opens its season this weekend against Louisiana State University, but the event has been turned into a postal meet because of Hurricane Lili. The Auburn Tigers will swim their part of the meet tonight at their pool in Auburn, Ala., then, weather permitting, the LSU Tigers will swim their half of the meet Saturday in their pool in Baton Rouge, La.
Northfield Hermon School senior Sarah Lende (Haines) earned high school all-American status as a member of her schools' 200-yard freestyle relay team. Lende's relay team posted a time of 1 minute, 41.98 seconds last February in the Connecticut Valley Independent Championships. Northfield Hermon School is a private high school based in Massachusetts. When she attended Haines, Lende ranked among the state's top small school cross-country runners and was one of the top 400-meter runners in track.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature runs about once a month during the school year and is compiled by sports editor Charles Bingham from school Web sites and tips from readers, coaches and parents. If you know of any other college athlete from Southeast Alaska who should be included in the feature, please let us know. You can fax information to 586-3028 (attention Sports), or you can e-mail the information to email@example.com.