By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On the depth chart that was released Monday, he’s listed as a starting wide receiver. Whether Matt Snyder actually will be on the field for UVa’s first play from scrimmage Saturday night at Scott Stadium, it’s too early to say. The Cavaliers’ other options at wideout include Jared Green, Kris Burd, Javaris Brown and Tim Smith.
Either way, though, Snyder has made himself a great story. The 6-4, 205-pound redshirt sophomore is a walk-on in a football program that doesn’t hesitate to put non-scholarship players in prominent roles. Jon Copper, Josh Zidenberg, Staton Jobe and Byron Glaspy, among others, will attest to that.
“Virginia gave me a chance when no one else would,” Snyder said on a teleconference this morning. “I was very [grateful] for that chance, and to this day they’ve treated walk-ons and myself phenomenally. If you work hard as a walk-on, you can do things, and it’s an equal-opportunity team. Virginia treats walk-ons just like scholarship players, and it’s great.”
As a senior at Deep Run High in western Henrico County, Snyder caught 65 passes for 1,009 yards and was named to the all-Central Region team. Division I-A schools weren’t impressed.
Nor, for that matter, were Division I-AA schools, including the University of Richmond, whose assistants then included Latrell Scott, now Snyder’s position coach at UVa.
“It feels good to say it now,” Snyder said. “It didn’t feel so good back then, but no, I had no scholarship offers. D-I-AA wouldn’t even let me walk on. Like I said, I’m so [grateful] to Virginia for giving me this opportunity. Like any walk-on, I came here with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove to people that I could actually play. That’s been a little bit of motivation.”
Consider Al Groh convinced.
“He’s done an excellent job in every area,” Groh said this afternoon. “He really epitomizes the attitude that real football players have.”
Snyder, 20, has good size and good hands, and that was true when he played at Deep Run, too. But he wasn’t a burner on the field, and that scared away college coaches.
“People were recruiting speed, and they didn’t think I had that,” he said. “I’m still not sure I do, but again I’m so just happy Virginia gave me the opportunity.”
Until a reporter informed him this morning, Snyder didn’t realize he’d been listed as a starter on the depth chart for the William and Mary game. He’s taking nothing for granted.
“Like I said, until Saturday, nothing’s certain,” Snyder said. “If I get in the game Saturday I’ll be very pleased and feel very blessed. If not, I’ll keep working and go from there.”
Look for him on special teams, as well as receiver. Snyder raves about the job that new special-teams coordinator Ron Prince has done since returning to UVa this year.
“We’re all very excited to get out there and show kind of a new side of the Cavaliers,” Snyder said. “No one really knows us for special teams, but we’re really excited to get out there and kind of flip the script.”
UVa’s roster includes two Snyders. The brother most likely to contribute this season is the one who’s not on scholarship. Jake Snyder is a first-year defensive end who’s expected to redshirt.
That’s what Matt did in 2007, and he didn’t get into any games last season, either. Nearly three years have passed, then, since he last played in front of fans at something other than a spring game. Saturday night figures to be an emotional time for him.
“I grew up going to Virginia games with my parents and with my brothers,” Snyder said. “I was in the stands like, ‘Wow,’ and looking at those guys running out the tunnel. I didn’t really dream about it then, but it was always like a dream of mine, I guess.
“Not even really a goal, but a dream. Through the whole recruiting process, I wasn’t getting recruited by anybody, I was just confused a little bit. And [then-UVa assistant] Mike Groh really came in and gave me that opportunity. He reached out when no one else really was.
“I had to think about it for a minute. But you read all these stories about walk-ons becoming starters, whether it’s at Virginia or any school, and that’s motivation for any kid that doesn’t really get any scholarships offers or get many looks at the collegiate level. I did think about those guys: Copper, Josh Zidenberg, Byron. I owe a lot to those guys, and I owe a lot to Virginia.”