What is a renegade? According to Merriam-Webster, a renegade is, “an individual who rejects conventional behavior.” Someone who goes against the grain and does things their way. The word, “renegade” could not fit a player better than Tyler Matakevich.
Coming out of Milford Academy in Trumbell, Connecticut, Matakevich was not a sought-after recruit. The outside linebacker stood at just 6’1″ and weighed in at 210 pounds. An unranked recruit, he only received two scholarship offers. They were Akron and Temple. He would accept the scholarship offer from Temple, joining the Owls in 2012.
Right out of the gate, Matakevich made a name for himself, becoming a starter during his freshman year. He’d impress the coaching staff as well as he put up big numbers in year one finishing with 101 tackles. Throughout his four years at Temple, Matakevich proved to be a tackling machine as he would set the school record for tackles in a career with 493.
His final season at Temple was his best statically and it was the season where Mataveich finally got the recognition he deserved. He finished his senior year with 138 tackles, 4.5 sacks along with five interceptions. He received the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award while being named the 2015 AAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Consensus All-American.
Then came the draft. Matakevich, although he had put on a solid amount of weight in college, was still on the smaller side weighing 238 pounds. He also didn’t test great running a 4.81-second 40-yard dash. According to many experts, Matakevich was at best a fifth-round pick.
Once it was draft night, Matakevich was in for a roller-coaster ride.
“It was nuts ,” Matakevich said. “Everyone is telling you you’re going to go early, then you see all these guys go before you. Then you start thinking, “Well what’s going on?”
As day three rolled on and Matakevich still had not heard his name, his fate seemed to have been sealed.
“Then you start getting these calls [saying], “Oh we want to sign you as a free agent” [during] the fifth round.” Matakevich said. “So then you start thinking you’re going sign as a free agent.”
However, right before it seemed that Matakevich would be a undrafted free agent, he got a call that would change everything.
“Then I got a call from Mike Tomlin.” he said. “He was like, “You ready to be a Pittsburgh Steeler?”
In Pittsburgh, Matakevich proved to be a pivotal member of the Steelers special teams unit. Though he only started one game in his career, Matakevich did not miss a single game with the Steelers. He finished his time in Pittsburgh with 77 tackles from 2016 to 2019.
While on the Steelers, there was one moment that stuck out to him in particular. The Bills response to the Steelers’ Renegade song in 2019.
“We were pumped, we thought were going to get the stop, get the ball, go down, score, and the game would be over.” Matakevich said, “Josh [Allen] and them came out and just, I think it was like 70 yards, and the other sideline was going nuts.”
Call it destiny or call it fate, but sure enough this would not be the last time that Matakevich would see the Bills. As he would soon become one himself.
“I was sitting on my staircase with my girlfriend and my dog,” Matakevich said. “My agent called me and then it was excitement. I was going nuts.”
In his first season with the Bills, Matakevich would be an immediate contributor on special teams. He’d play in all 16 games, recording 23 tackles. Being apart of the Bills special teams unit was truly a joy for Matakevich.
“It was awesome,” he said, “This was by far one of the most unique and awesome group of guys I’ve been around.”
Matakevich got to enjoy a great season as the Bills went 13-3, winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Going through the playoffs was wild. Not only winning a playoff game but advancing to the AFC Championship game was something that Matakevich will never forget. Despite the outcome of the AFC Championship not going the Bills way, Matakevich remains positive about the team.
“It was a special year” he said, “We got a special group of guys.”
Like a renegade, Matakevich is someone who has rejected conventional behavior because he’s had to. Undersized, overlooked, and doubted, it’s been an uphill battle just to get here. Despite all that’s been said about him, he expects big things for not just himself in 2021, but the Bills as well.
“I’m going out there, I’m going to be making plays, I’m going to get off blocks, I’m going to be throwing guys, making tackles, I’m going to try to get me a few blocked punts,” he said, but most importantly, “win a Super Bowl.”
Update: Tyler Matakevich signed a one-year contract extension with the Buffalo Bills, keeping the special team ace with the team through 2022.