Seemingly overnight, senior Matt Hoffman went from being a Rowan football star to a national media star.
Hoffman, who was honored as one of the four best Division III football players in America with his 2010 nomination for the Gagliardi Trophy – DIII’s equivalent of the Heisman – was featured this holiday season in news outlets from coast to coast, from local and regional newspapers to ABC and CBS News, from The New York Times to The Huffington Post.
But it wasn’t just Hoffman’s on-field heroics, which were considerable, that drew all the attention. It was what he did off-field and how he saved a stranger’s life.
In 2009, Hoffman and his teammates led a campus drive for the National Marrow Donor Program. Some 370 Rowan students registered but only Hoffman matched a patient in need of a stem cell transplant. The timing of the donation caused Hoffman to miss the final game of his junior season but saved the life of Warren Sallach, a Texas father with non-Hodgkins lymphoma who almost certainly would have died without the transplanted stem cells.
Protocol prevents donors and recipients from contact for at least a year after a donation but on Dec. 16, the day of the Gagliardi Trophy award dinner, Hoffman met Sallach who’d travelled to the Virginia ceremony with his wife and son.
“My first thought was he reminded me of Clint Eastwood,” said Hoffman, 21, a health and exercise science major from Burlington Township.
Hoffman, who carries a 3.2 GPA and may pursue a graduate degree in nutrition, did not win the Gagliardi (which went to quarterback Eric Watt of Trine University in Indiana) but is hoping for a shot at the pros.
A Rowan football co-captain, Hoffman was named 2nd Team All-American for 2010. He is also the NJAC Defensive Player-of-the-Year, was named to the All-Conference first team, was chosen as D3football.com’s East Region Defensive Player-of-the-Year and to the East All-Region first team.
Hoffman led the Profs’ defense with 65 tackles (30 solo, 35 assisted), 21.5 tackles for a loss (-106 yards) and 8.5 sacks (-75 yards). He also forced three fumbles, broke up two passes and recovered one fumble.
Hoffman said he’s disappointed with not winning the Gagliardi (“I wanted to bring it back for Rowan”) but said the award itself was nothing compared with the year he’s already had.
“Going to Virginia and meeting Warren and his family was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I got to help a family keep their dad and what’s better than that? It’s something I’ll never forget.”
To read and view some of the stories about Rowan's Matt Hoffman in the national media, visit the following links: