Expected Finish, Unexpected Journey: Matt Masker
Contributor / Will Stone
On a fall day in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a little league team from Kearney, Nebraska had reached the “Mecca” of youth baseball. Matt Masker was on the team, living out every young boy’s baseball dreams at the Little League World Series.
“I guess baseball was probably my true first love as a little kid. It was probably my best sport and my favorite sport, but I kind of played them all,” he said.
The problem Masker faced was that Kearney Catholic, his high school, didn’t have a baseball team so to pursue the sport he’d have to play Legion ball, eating up most of his summer and prohibiting him from getting necessary training done for the fall’s football season. This left him to make a choice between the two sports and he ultimately picked football.
“I started to really love football my freshman year when I met my high school coaches. They were kind of the guys that made me fall in love with football. I loved the offseason grind of what football brings, lifting weights all year round,” he said.
That choice paid off. He went on to throw for 7,050 yards throughout his career and received four Division II scholarship offers as well as drawing interest from a few smaller Division I teams in walk-on capacities.
The University of Nebraska-Kearney, Wayne State, Emporia State, Augustana, Minnesota State-Moorhead, Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri State were among those offering scholarships and perennial FCS playoff contender South Dakota State had extended a committable walk-on offer.
But the one school he wanted to hear from most wasn’t calling.
“Ever since I was a little kid, it’s kind of been my dream [to play for Nebraska],” he said.
While the Huskers showed some interest in Masker by inviting him to games and calling him every now and then, the Huskers ultimately never extended an offer to Masker despite his status as the best high school quarterback in the state of Nebraska.
But Masker kept hope that the Huskers would call. Over the summer preceding his senior year, he attended several of Nebraska’s camps, trusting that his skill would show to be too good to pass up.
“I went to a bunch of their camps in the summer — those Friday Night Lights camps that they have. I thought I threw extremely well and performed to the best of my abilities. But I just never got a ton of interest from them,” he said. “They offered an out-of-state kid from Kansas City the walk-on quarterback spot. He committed right away.”
Masker began to take visits to several of the schools that had offered him and began thinking about his decision.
In late November of 2017, the then-head coach, Mike Riley, was fired. Following Riley’s termination, the out-of-state commit from Kansas City backed off his pledge to Nebraska, freeing up the spot that Masker had had his eyes on.
As the coaching change took place in Lincoln, Masker was fresh off of his senior season where he threw for 25 touchdowns, finishing his career as the Class C-1 record-holder for career passing touchdowns with 86.
The previous record, which had stood for 25 years, was held by an individual by the name of Scott Frost.
One month and five days after Masker’s last game at Kearney Catholic, Scott Frost was named the new head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In Frost’s introductory press conference, he stressed that too many talented Nebraskans were leaving the state to play elsewhere.
“I just had a good feeling that I would get contacted,” Masker said.
On December 17, 2017, Frost invited some of the most talented high school players in the state to an evening focused on building relationships with potential walk-on athletes.
Masker was included in that group.
Later that night he announced via Twitter that he would be a Husker.
“My first Husker game I was six years old, the Huskers were still in the Big 12, playing Missouri. I remember Zac Taylor was the quarterback and Marlon Lucky was on the team. I remember the first time experiencing the Tunnel Walk and experiencing a Nebraska football game,” he said. “I remember how much I looked up to the players. I thought they were celebrities — it’s just crazy that I’m going to be a part of that and be on the team. It’s just really, really humbling.”
It was a long journey for Masker — one that started in Kearney, Nebraska; ran through Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and had potential exits at Maryville, Missouri at Northwest Missouri State and Brookings, South Dakota for SDSU; but for now, the journey stops in Lincoln — just as it was always meant to.