Today is National Signing Day, where high school senior athletes around the country send in their National Letters of Intent to the universities of their choosing, declaring their intentions for the next four years.
However, between shady tactics leading to scandals on the schools’ part and flip-flopping on the players’ part, the recruiting process has become much more interesting than in years past. The whole college experience has.
We talked with Indianapolis Colts safety Matthias Farley, who played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 2011-’15. After redshirting as a true freshman, Farley became a starter for the undefeated (regular season) 2012 squad, who ultimately lost in a lopsided National Championship matchup to Eddie Lacy and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Farley lost his full-time starting spot in 2013 and, although he only started occasionally from there, he played all throughout each season.
Farley signed on as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals following the 2016 NFL Draft. He impressed right away, earning the top spot among all league safeties during the preseason according to Pro Football Focus. Despite that, Farley was let go during the final wave of roster cuts. He then landed with the Colts.
Farley played primarily on special teams as a rookie with the Colts, still appearing in all 16 games. 2017 is when he really answered the call. With injuries at different times to starting safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker, Farley started 15-of-16 games, and he did it well. He was second on the team in tackles (98) and interceptions (2).
As you can see, Farley’s career has had its definite peaks and valleys, but it shows that if you stick to the process and persevere, you’ll get back to where you want to be. Here’s our conversation with Farley.
Stampede Blue: What’s the one thing young guys should know about choosing a college that no one tells them going into the recruitment process?
Matthias Farley: I think the biggest thing that they don’t tell you, it has nothing to do with really like football when you’re choosing a college or a sport, it’s more of just to really get involved in the community of the college or university. Not just hanging around the people you come in with or your buddies on the team. It’s really important to branch out. That’s one thing when looking back I wish I would’ve done more. I think I did a pretty good job, but I wish I would’ve done more of just getting involved with different things on campus that happened, or a student body gathering, or you know whatever it might be. To be more involved in those things, I think it just makes the experience in college a lot more fulfilled.
SB: How quickly did you realize you were joining a brotherhood at Notre Dame? I followed that era’s teams very closely, and I’d never seen a team that close before.
MF: Absolutely, there’s so much tradition and so much history that has taken place at Notre Dame. So I knew before I got there that you’re walking into peoples’ ginormous footsteps that you have to uphold and honor the people that come before and the people that come after and then the guys that you come in with. I think everyone goes there for a similar reason and that’s to become a better person and not just a better player. I mean they’re going to become a better player because of the caliber of players that you’re going to be playing with and against every day. But I think that it’s just an amazing place where you go to grow and I think that everyone came in with that mindset to grow and I think that’s why guys are so close.
SB: From recruiting, through your collegiate career and into the NFL, do you have any regrets?
MF: I think that the only thing I really regret from college is not getting involved early with the university itself. I don’t regret anything football-wise. I had an up-and-down career, but I don’t regret anything from that standpoint, I think I needed all of the ups and downs to grow for myself so I look at those things as positives now. But just getting more involved with student functions would’ve made the earlier parts of my college experience a lot better. On the back end I tried to counteract that, but it would’ve been cool to come in with that mindset.
SB: Making it in this sport obviously takes being a good athlete, but what is the importance of also being a good person? You hear often about how coaches, scouts, executives, etc. get turned off by a guy’s attitude.
MF: I think that Notre Dame recruits people of high character across the board and I think it’s run by people of high character and the people that you meet there are of high character, so it calls you to a higher standard just by being a part of it because you’re doing and working and being and playing and studying around people that are going to go on and do something great. And those are your peers. And then there’s people that you meet. I met Hunter Perret that way at dinner my freshman year and I had no idea the impact that he would have on not only my college experience, but him and I are still very very close. And I’ve met several other people similarly to that, that have had huge impacts on my life that are just great people. I think that having those people in your life, having those people that have had success at that level — in sports and business and finance and all these different things — and they’re all a resource and asset to you by going to a place like Notre Dame. They care about you, they care about your story and I think it enriches your life in a lot more ways than just the 4 or 5 years you might spend in college because you can keep those relationships going for a long time.
SB: How did relationships with coaches, teachers or other people help or hurt you? An example: The Irish dealt with some high-profile indefinite suspensions that were said to lead back to some tutoring/academics. Did you find things like that being an obstacle or distraction?
MF: Not really, I mean I think there was an unfortunate series of events, but that’s things that were out of my control and out of all of our control so you just always focus on what we had to do and what I had to do myself to stay in good standing with my coaches and to stay in good standing with my professors and to stay in good standing with a lot of the people that I had met during my time there. I think I got better from being around my teachers and my coaches. You don’t always get along with your coaches, you don’t always get along with your teachers, you don’t always get along with everybody, but I think that at Notre Dame you can have those tough conversations with people and you can have real conversations with people, and I think that’s what makes you grow and you’ll see that over your 4 years there.
SB: What helped drive you to keep going when you came up against tough odds? For example, Notre Dame had a tremendous 2012 regular season, with you as a starter. However, the team lost handily to Alabama. Although you lost your starting spot later in your collegiate career, you made your way to the NFL and impressed right away as a rookie and ultimately became a starter again at the highest level.
MF: I have a self-belief, I have a lot of pride being a Farley. I come from a big family and that means a lot to me. I think that I needed all of the things that happened to me in college. High school when I first started was a breeze, and then getting to college there were a lot of ups and downs — starting and then not starting, playing and then not playing — all this stuff that I was able to stay true to who I was and I learned in a lot of different times and a lot of different ways. In different instances I feel like I had a lot of people around me. I had coaches — Coach Elliott was very instrumental, he passed away this past summer — he had a huge impact on my life. I was a part of the Joyce Grants-in-Aid program — I met Hunter Perret that way. He had a huge impact when I was down. He would come to every game whether we were winning or losing and bring his family. I always had a place to go after games in my family which is huge, another safe place. There’s just countless people, coaches wives — Mrs. Elliott, she would take care of us and come and check on us at the facilities and things like that. There was just a lot of people cheering me on and being there to support through good and bad times and I think that those people were necessary in the way that they aided and helped and encouraged and all those things to get me to where I am today.
Thank you to Matthias for sharing his experiences with us. Congratulations, and best of luck to all of the high school athletes sending in their college LOI’s today