QB is an unqualified success

Football: The nephew of a Super Bowl winner, River Hill's Matt Hostetler doesn't let his famous family ties increase pressure or decrease focus in his simple goal to work hard and lead his team.

High Schools

October 05, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Everywhere the quiet quarterback goes, the comma follows.

It doesn't dog him or frustrate him. It's just there. A part of the landscape, hanging on him the same way his uniform does.

In high school, he has never been simply: River Hill quarterback Matt Hostetler.

He's always been this: River Hill quarterback Matt Hostetler, nephew of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jeff Hostetler.

Yet there are no complaints about the comma, or what follows. He doesn't feel burdened by great expectations, doesn't cry out for his own identity. Matt Hostetler, a three-year senior starter and modest leader of the 2-2 Hawks, simply throws footballs as well as any high school player in Maryland - no commas or qualifiers needed.

"I don't really think about that kind of stuff," Hostetler says when people draw comparisons. "Seems like this year, a lot more people have figured out the connection. I just figure I'll do the best I can and people can decide what they want."

The consensus lately has been that Hostetler can flat-out play. Four games into the season, he's been responsible for nine touchdowns, tossing five and running for four. He's also completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and thrown for 502 yards. Much like the other quarterbacks in the Hostetler lineage - his father, Doug, played quarterback and linebacker at Penn State, while his uncle Jeff led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl win in 1991 - Matt Hostetler's greatest attribute always has been his leadership.

Never was that more evident than last week, when Hostetler ran River Hill's no-huddle attack to perfection, orchestrating a 12-7 upset of Wilde Lake, ranked No. 8 at the time. The win, which came at Wilde Lake's homecoming, was the first time the Hawks had beaten the tradition-rich Wildecats. Hostetler passed for a touchdown, ran for one, and helped seal the win with an interception, having taken the additional responsibility of playing defense this season.

"Our first touchdown against Wilde Lake [a 15-yard pass from Hostetler to Ken Gilliam], we scored because of a check-off that Matt made," said River Hill coach Brian Van Duesen. "He saw that a slant was open and checked off to it. He's such a smart, coachable kid that he can make those kind of calls for us."

"Smart" hardly tells the half of it. Hostetler is the top-ranked student in his class of a little more than 300. He recently scored a 1,200 on his SATs, and is actively involved in student government. Ivy League schools Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown are all interested suitors.

"My parents have always pushed me to do well in school," Hostetler says. "I'm actually a little disappointed in my SAT scores. I think I should have scored higher and I'll probably end up taking them again."

Though he admits good genes certainly didn't hurt, Hostetler swears he's not a natural athlete. Though he won the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and guided the Hawks to a 7-3 record, it wasn't always smooth sailing.

"It was hard at first, because I really had to compete for that spot," Hostetler says. "My dad and uncle and cousin were all quarterbacks, so it was something I always wanted to do, be in charge of a team. Because I was young, a lot of the guys didn't want to listen to me at first, but they ended up having to."

They listened, but they also watched as the next year he threw for seven scores and nearly 1,200 yards, earning a first-team All-County selection. What helped, no doubt, was having two experienced teachers in his father and uncle to help shape his skills that summer, just as they had every summer. While many of his peers were enjoying life away from the field, Hostetler was throwing 200 footballs a day, practicing his footwork, and working on his passes with anyone willing to catch them.

"My dad taught me a lot about throwing," Hostetler says. "My uncle, too. We'd just work on form every day and do drop-backs until it felt comfortable. It was a lot of work, five days a week, but it paid off. It was something I wanted."

Hostetler will need to pull out another gutsy performance this week if River Hill is to upset its second ranked team in two weeks. The Hawks play host to No. 6 Glenelg, one of the area's hottest teams.

"We'll have to play our best," Hostetler says. "We have to score because they can score on anyone.

"We'll be ready," he adds. No comma, no qualifier needed.

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