Sinclair discusses transition from Illinito Baltimore Ravens

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Courtney Linehan

Matt Sinclair was a three-year starter for Illinois’ football team. After completing his career as an Illini, Sinclair is on his way to Baltimore to play for the Ravens.

How do you feel about signing with the Baltimore Ravens?

It’s awesome. I just got back from mini-camp, and it was kind of a surreal experience. I was hoping to get drafted, but when you get to this stage you just want any chance you can get to get in, and hopefully I’ll make the most of it.

How good do you think your chances are to be successful with the Ravens?

One of the reasons I chose Baltimore was because they had a shortage of linebackers and they only signed one, so my agent thought it would be a good choice for me. I think I’ll have a good shot at making it. They think a lot of me, so hopefully it’ll be a happy marriage.

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    Before the draft, how did you prepare for the NFL?

    I trained up by Chicago in Wheaton with a couple of trainers. Mike O’Brien signed with the same agent I did so he was up there, too. It was really intense training – six hours a day. We’d do three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. I had to go on a pretty strict diet, stopped eating fast food, fried food, stopped going out and partying.

    It was a hard four months because your friends are all at school telling you they’re going out down at college, but hopefully it all turned out to be worth it.

    Having been to mini-camp now, what do you think will be the toughest thing about transitioning from the Big Ten to the NFL?

    You always want to keep learning and become a student of the game. Of course, it’s physically demanding because when you get to that level everybody’s big and powerful. But the guys who stick around are the ones who have really learned from football. What I’ve been trying to do the later part of my career here is become a student of the game.

    What will you miss most about the Midwest?

    I’m just going to miss the cold weather. One of the reasons I decided to stay in the Midwest for college was because I felt like football should be played in cold weather, in bad weather. I’m sure winters will be bad out there, but I don’t think anything can compare to the touch-and-go climate of the Midwest.

    Do you think you’ll become an Orioles fan when you live in Baltimore?

    Not a chance in hell. St. Louis is one of the most baseball-nuts towns in the country; pro players have said they dream of playing there just because of the fans. I’ve always grown up a National League fan, too, so I don’t think I can switch to the American League.

    What did you learn from playing Illinois football?

    Loyalty to your team and just how to deal with adversity. We didn’t have the type of years I wanted while I was here, but you play the game because you love it. If anything it taught me to appreciate the game a lot more, and I don’t think that will ever change.

    What is your favorite U of I memory on the field?

    Starting my first career game. It was against Michigan my sophomore year. I led the team in tackles. It was on national TV. Starting to play against a storied tradition like Michigan, it was a pretty cool feeling.

    What about off the field?

    Just getting the chance to be friends with the guys, to grow with them. You get to meet such a diverse group of people that a lot of people don’t get to experience outside of sports; it’s something I’ll never take for granted.

    If you’d never played football, what do you think you’d be doing?

    I always wanted to be a doctor. My mom is a nurse and my uncle is a radiologist. Growing up, my mom made me watch all those shows on TLC.

    If football doesn’t work out, there are so many people who’ve said they’ll open their doors to me. My financial adviser now is a guy I grew up with, and he said if I was really serious about it he’d help me get started. There’s also the possibility of teaching and coaching at the high school level.

    High School? You wouldn’t want to coach college or pro?

    High school is unique because the guys play for the right reasons. They’re out there for themselves, for their team, for their friends. At college some of the guys become more selfish; they see it as a stepping-stone to the pros. Then the NFL is such a business. High school is more pure.

    Plus, you get to have more of an impact on somebody’s life than you would coaching at another level.

    If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you be playing?

    I played basketball in high school. I was a pretty well-rounded player. We weren’t a very good team so I had to play point guard, forward, center – everything.

    Everybody wants to say they’d be a golfer, but I’d need a lot of practice.

    What’s the best class you’ve taken at U of I?

    Accy 201 because it’s kind of like a weed-out class for business majors. Nobody looks forward to taking it, but I learned the most there. It’s stuff that will help you in the real world, where a lot of college classes are just busy work.

    What is you favorite tattoo?

    It’s one you can’t see; it’s in the middle of my back. It’s a fleur-de-lis. It’s the symbol of St. Louis and was the symbol of my high school; I went to St. Louis University High School. I got it my senior year, the week I graduated. It’s always going to be the one that means the most to me.