USF's Matos trades basketball court for gridiron glory
TAMPA, Fla. - A University of South Florida basketball player is trading his basketball shorts for a set of shoulder pads.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic Bayron Matos only cared one sport.
"Dominican is baseball. Everything was about baseball growing up," said Matos.
And Matos was good on a dirt diamond, too.
As a teenager, Matos' fastball reached the 90s but his height and size drove the teenager to another popular Dominican sport, basketball.
"Back in those days I got really tall," Matos said.
At one point, Matos was considered one of the top prospects coming out of the high school ranks.
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The 6'9" center wound up committing to and playing his freshman year at New Mexico before transferring to USF last season where he played in 28 games for the Bulls.
Bayron Matos drinks from a water bottle during USF football practice.
Come springtime, though, Matos felt like a career chance was in order and decided to try out for the Bulls football team.
There was just one problem, however.
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"He never played one high school snap," explained USF Head Football Coach Jeff Scott.
Actually, Matos had never played a snap of football at any level.
"We don't play the sport back home where I'm from," Matos admits.
The USF football team practices with Bayron Matos, a former basketball player who walked on the team.
It turns out, when Matos was finishing up his high school basketball career at a prep school in Tennessee, his host family introduced him to American football by watching NFL games every Sunday.
"They always told me, I will never forget this, if I was born in the United States, I would be a football player," Matos remembers being told by his host family.
That message finally got across to Matos when he decided to trade his basketball shorts for a pair of shoulder pads in the spring.
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Now a defensive lineman for the Bulls, Matos definitely stands out in the crowd at 6'9".
"He's probably the best looking player on the team," joked Scott.
Bayron Matos practices with the USF football team.
"He's going to be the guy we let off the bus first for sure. But he's still learning a lot."
And while Matos clearly still has to learn the finer points of the game, with his size, strength and four years of eligibility left, the sky could be the limit for this basketball player turned defensive end.
"I kind of like this," says Matos about his new passion.
At the very least, when Bayron Matos hits someone of the football field, he won't get a technical foul.