On Tuesday evening I remember giving Matt Deery a high five and a partial hug after he completed his workout. Like all of our athletes, Matt searched me out after he was finished to say thanks. I have known Matt for about 6 years. We first met when his mother brought him over to my old facility with his brother Eric. I taught and coached Eric at Phillipsburg high school. I remember one of our coaches telling me that Matt was going to be one helluva athlete. Even at that age, he had a great attitude, tremendous work ethic, and was always a pleasure to be around.
Last evening as I prepared to go to bed and finish up my day, I checked my cell phone to see if I had any missed messages. I saw that I had two unread text messages. The news that I received was mind blowing and devastating. Two of my coaching colleagues and friends told me that Matt was killed in an auto accident. I was at a loss of words and if you know me, that is something that doesn’t happen often. My mind was all over the place and my wife asked me what was wrong. She also knew Matt from my gym/track and when I told her the news she was in disbelief. The flurry of calls and messages that followed are a testament to how much Matt meant to all of us. I can’t believe he is gone.
Last night was a long night for me and I’m sure the upcoming days will be the same. I can only imagine the grief his family is feeling and it reminds me of how much my family means to me. It also reminds me of what’s important to me. If you knew Matt, you know that he was one of the most accomplished athletes in Phillipsburg high school history. He was a tremendous football and track athlete who was running track at Lipscomb University. Above him being a great athlete, he was out of this universe when it came to personality. He was always on time, ready to bring his best, and a great mentor to all of our younger athletes. What stands out the most about Matt was his ability to work with our younger athletes as a mentor. Just the other day we were walking out together and he commented how one of our younger high school athletes was going to make the 54 inch box jump that he was working on. Matt was giving him a couple of pointers on technique. He often stayed late and would put in extra and also teach our young guys. He and I would often lock up together. I’m glad that I had the extra time to get to know him beyond the typical gym setting. Matt was a very special guy and a pleasure to be around.
Like all of my athletes at FASST, Matt and I would have discussions about his goals for his sport and his life. Matt was looking forward to an outstanding track career and eventually working toward possibly becoming an accountant. He was destined for success in whatever he chose because that was the type of person he was. A winner in every sense of the word. A young man that any parent would want their own child to grow up and emulate.
It is difficult to think of the words to summarize my emotions on this whole tragic event but I would like to write a couple things on Matt and his impact on me as a person, coach, and father. As I think of the words, I can’t think of any that don’t begin with great.
- Great Person
- Great Smile
- Great Personality
- Great Athlete
- Great Friend
- Great Mentor
- Great Work Ethic
- Great Student
- Great Son
- Great Role Model
- Great Inspiration
We loved Matt Deery and even the people who only got the chance to meet Matt over the summer have become better by being around him. This week marks the conclusion of our team/pre season training. It was a tremendous summer and much of it was because we worked with Matt and the other guys who make our gym the place to be after 4:00pm. The loss of Matt has put into perspective what makes the workouts so memorable and worthwhile. It’s not because the guys are good athletes and enjoyable to watch on the playing field. It is the camaraderie, teamwork, and the relationships we build day in and day out that makes being away from my own children worthwhile. Seeing the guys become successful people in the various pursuits after they finish up their careers. The mentoring they give to our young athletes who are moving up through the ranks and following in their footsteps. Matt was a person who lived his life without regret and I know that I will always remember him as being a shining light among stars. As much as I love athletics, I love my family, athletes, and my coaches exponentially more. Without all of them, everything I or anyone else accomplishes is inconsequential. Take the extra time today to say a prayer for Matt, his family, and everyone else who has been impacted by a loss of a loved one. Make every encounter meaningful and take a lesson from Matt. Every time I was with him I left a better person, coach, father, and friend and I will be forever grateful.