When Dutch Fork running back Matt Colburn attended football camp at Louisville this summer, he was surprised that the Cardinal coaches kept putting him in the front of the line when it came time for positional drills.
They must have liked what they were seeing. Before Colburn left camp, coach Bobby Petrino pulled him aside and offered him a scholarship. It didn’t take long for Colburn to accept.
“The coaches are great and personable, and the school has all kind of things to offer, with facilities and moving into the ACC,” Colburn said. “It’s a great relief to put recruiting aside so I can focus on the season. I felt at home at Louisville.”
The decision to play at Louisville was an easy one, according to Colburn. He has family about two hours away in Ohio. His family in South Carolina can see him often on TV. But the intrigue of playing in a Power Five conference is what made the decision.
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“All of the schools that offered were good, but I’m all about competing,” Colburn said. “I really wanted to play in a Power Five conference like the ACC. My first goal is to get to the NFL, and I felt playing in a Power Five conference will help.”
With his recruiting out of the way, Colburn can focus his attention on his senior season with the Silver Foxes. A year ago, Colburn led an offensive attack that was high-octane from opening kickoff until the whistle sounded in December on Dutch Fork football’s first state championship.
He ran for 2,488 yards last season with 40 rushing touchdowns despite missing nearly three games with injury. In the playoffs, he averaged 247 yards per game, which included two 300-yard plus games.
Now, Colburn is healthy and has added about 20 pounds of muscle. He was at 195 when preseason practice began and expects to play this season at around 190 pounds. His low center of gravity on his 5-foot-8 frame makes him a hard target for defenses.
“I’m comfortable right now, but I will probably be around 190 for the season,” Colburn said. “I want to be around 200 by the end of the year. I haven’t lost any speed – I actually might have gotten a little faster – and I should be able to take the pounding a little better this season.”
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts has said Colburn has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him this off-season. Knotts was happy to see the offer come from Louisville after Colburn had received 13 or 14 offers to that point, with the biggest schools being Marshall, Toledo, Ohio, Georgia Southern and Furman.
“We hope Matt can play at 190 pounds and hold it all year,” Knotts said. “He’s a pretty good running back at 190 pounds. He’s the full package of speed, power – he can do it all. We’ve been encouraging him to get bigger, because we wanted him to get a big D-I offer. ...
“We’re pretty happy that he’s committed to (Louisville). Now we need to see him committed to our program.”
The goal this year to to limit Colburn’s touches, especially early in the year. But by the time region play begins in October, Knotts said opponents can expect a different gameplan.
“So far, we’re trying to keep him safe and not running him a whole lot. But it’s going to be the Matt Colburn show when we get to region play,” Knotts said. “Unless I get hard-headed, we’re going to limit his carries in non-region play and scrimmages. We think we can be there in December. But to be there in December, we have to have Matt Colburn healthy.”
Colburn feels he has a capable backup in his brother – sophomore Chris Colburn.
“I don’t know if I will carry it as much as last year,” Colburn said. “There’s no pressure on me at all. I don’t think coach Knotts wants to run me as much, just for longevity’s sake. I have a perfect back-up in my brother and a few other backs, so we should be good.”
If all goes to plan, the work would be good for another state title.
“I don’t want to have any regrets or leave anything behind,” he said. “I don’t want anything less than another ring. ... That’s our mindset, and I think we can do it. We’re the hunted. People want to beat Dutch Fork now.”