Athletes come and go in all sports, and only a select few truly leave a lasting impression. BR-19 Guilford quarterback Matt Pawlowski is poised to finish as one of the very best football players in his respective division thanks to his absolutely phenomenal play to start the 2015 D3 football season.
Sure, the season is just getting started. But when you throw for over 1,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns in three games, it’s tough to reign in the hyperbole.
Consider this: the only players with as many yards as Pawlowski have each thrown at least 25 more passes than Pawlowski’s 86 (60 completions). He has the second best passing efficiency rating in D3 football and ranks number one in touchdowns thrown.
Still not impressed? How ’bout this: Pawklowski has played just seven quarters in three games so far this season.
“That should tell people how he’s doing,” said Pawlowski’s go-to wide receiver Adam Smith, who pulled down 11 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns against Averett on Saturday. “But to further explain, there’s no question in Matt’s mind on the field. He always has a pre-snap plan and is more than able to adjust post-snap. He executes the offense play after play.”
Pawlowski was born in Memphis, Tennessee but spent the majority of his life in Greensboro. His love of football stemmed from Sunday afternoons watching the Denver Broncos with his dad.
“I loved watching John Elway play,” Pawlowski said.
Fittingly, after a brief stint at wide receiver on his first “organized football team,” he was moved to quarterback, where he’s remained throughout his football career.
“My dad would always throw with me in our backyard when I was younger and that is where I really developed my love of playing quarterback,” Pawlowski continued.
“The positive of playing quarterback is that you are always in control. I love having the ball in my hands and having the responsibility to put my team in the best situation to be successful. A negative is that if the team is unsuccessful, often times the quarterback gets blamed. As a quarterback I just try to keep a level head no matter how good or bad the situation is.”
Pawlowski attended Northwest Guilford High School where he found success, albeit minimal.
“I had a pretty successful career in high school,” he said, “however I did not get much of a chance to showcase my throwing ability as we ran the Wing-T offense” — an offense not predicated on a stud quarterback to function.
His lack of opportunities in high school put a damper on the recruitment process, as many FCS and D2 schools showed interest, but hadn’t seen enough to offer him any type of scholarship.
“Near the end of the recruiting process three Division III schools were really recruiting me (Guilford, Emory & Henry and Methodist University),” Pawlowski explained. “What really sold me on Guilford was the excitement and vision that Coach (Chris) Rusiewicz had when he visited my high school. I bought into what he was saying and he told me that I would have a chance to compete for the starting job as a freshman. Being a competitor, I wanted to makes sure that I went to a place where I would have a chance to play right away.
“I also love the Greensboro area and going to a local college would allow my parents to attend every game.”
Pawlowski contributed right off the bat, throwing for 2,445 yards — fifth best in school history — and 15 touchdowns, which earned him numerous accolades including Old Dominion Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and a league-best three ODAC Offensive Player of the Week Awards.
Last season was Pawlowski’s best yet, as the 6-foot-2, 205-pound QB exploded for 3,476 yards and a league-best 38 touchdown passes during the regular season.
“Guilford’s offense suits my strengths because it allows me to have a lot of freedom,” he said. “The coaches have trust in me to make checks where I feel necessary to get our offense into a position to be successful.”
Guilford head coach Chris Rusiewicz shares a similar sentiment.
“Each year, Matt looks to improve on his personal play to ultimately help the team get better and win football games,” he said. “After each season, Matt tells me that he would like to improve on his numbers to make sure our program can win more than the year before. I was impressed with the way he worked to improve between his sophomore and junior years and look forward to seeing the improvement this season, which is starting off well.
“I believe Matt instills confidence in the football program by the way he plays and leads by example,” Rusiewicz continued. “His teammates and coaches trust him and believe in him.”
Smith offered even more praise, noting Pawlowski’s leadership abilities and calm demeanor.
“He’s our guy, it’s that simple,” the wide receiver said. “When it comes to being off of the field, Matt is really quiet. He is a reserved and humble person. With that being said, on the field, Matt is more vocal than he’s ever been this season. And guys on the team know that if Matt yells or gets cranked up, it’s serious. I’ve been lucky enough to catch balls from Matt for almost four years.”
Now in his final season, Pawlowski has his eyes set on the ultimate prize:
“My number one goal is to bring Guilford College an outright conference championship, it is something that has never been accomplished and something that I have worked towards since I stepped foot on campus,” he said. “So far we are off to a great start. Our offense is averaging a lot of points and yards per game, which is great, but I still feel like there are areas where we can improve. Our defense is also playing great football right now and making a lot of plays. Our team is very focused and we are just trying to take the season one week at a time and not get too caught up in all the hype that surrounds us.”
Once the season is over, Pawlowski looks forward to taking his football career to the next level, possibly as a coach. For now though, he’s fixated on the task at hand.
“Right now I have a responsibility to the 100-plus guys in our locker room to remain focused on this season […] my sole focus is winning each game we play this season.”
As far as D3 games, so far so good.
On a side, Pawlowski had this to say about his parents:
“I just want to thank my parents for all the support that they have given me throughout my life. Obviously I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and they have sacrificed so much to make sure that I have had every opportunity possible. They continue to be my motivation to work hard each day and strive to be the best that I can.”
That was just too awesome to pass up.