'Mr. Reliable' Matt Seybert turns risk into long-awaited reward at Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State tight end Matt Seybert (80) recorded the first two touchdown catches of his career on Saturday.

Evanston, Ill. — Matt Seybert admits there were times he wondered if he made the right choice.

Was it the right call to transfer from Buffalo to Michigan State after just one season? When he was deep down the depth chart at tight end, switched to defensive end then flipped back to tight end, was it all going to work out?

Seybert wasn’t sure. In fact, he’d never made a decision quite like it.

“The hardest decision of my life,” Seybert said. “I would think about it every night in my dorm room. It was a risk and it was worth it.”

Yeah, after scoring his first career touchdown in the third quarter of Michigan State’s 31-10 victory over Northwestern, it sure looked like it was worth it. And after Seybert added his second touchdown in the fourth quarter, any doubt had disappeared.

He finished with four catches for 28 yards, but the touchdowns were huge for a guy who sat out 2016 as a transfer, played in five games in 2017 then saw action in three games last season after switching to defensive end in the spring.

He flipped back this past spring and picked up a scholarship along the way. But still, he didn’t know Saturday’s performance was coming on the same day Mark Dantonio became Michigan State’s winningest coach.

“I'm not gonna lie,” Seybert said. “You guys hear it all the time people thanking God, but I've been praying, praying my butt off lately, hard as heck. I'm just thankful, you know? Thankful for my teammates and the offense because they want to see people succeed as much as they want to succeed.”

That position switch, as it turns out, helped Seybert. At least that’s the way he looks at it.

“It’s actually a blessing in disguise,” Seybert said. “I got to learn so much more about defense, coverages, fronts, and so now I'm back on the offensive side I can recognize stuff and play smarter, more cool, calm, collected type thing. So it actually helped me. People might say it might have been a waste of a year for me and stuff like that, but you get the best out of a situation. It definitely helped me improve my knowledge of the game.”

More: Victory over Northwestern gets Michigan State out of 'the dumps'

And now Seybert is establishing himself as someone quarterback Brian Lewerke can trust.

“He’s gotten the nickname of Mr. Reliable in our quarterback room,” Lewerke said. “He has great hands and he gets open and showed it today.”

Seybert said it was redshirt freshman quarterback Theo Day that coined the nickname, but Seybert understands it’s up to him to live up to it.

He had one drop on Saturday, but more often, he’s been reliable. It’s something he didn’t know was coming when he decided to leave Buffalo for a spot at Michigan State that came with no guarantees. But he did believe he had a chance to be part of something he’d always wanted growing up in Traverse City.

“When I left Buffalo, the first thing my family and I talked about was, ‘It's going to be worth it, even if you don't play until your last season,’” Seybert said. “Because here you get to play for something way bigger than yourself. You're playing for Coach D’s record-setting wins, that's something way bigger than yourself. You're playing in the Big Ten Conference, the best conference in college football.

“So, you know, I knew it was worth it. I knew that it was going to be a grind and it wasn't going to come easy and it's tough. You have your down days and you almost want to give up but you gotta stick through it.”

Seybert has, and now he’s becoming a big part of Michigan State’s offense.

Injury report

Seybert has been playing regularly all season, but the increased work Saturday was, in part, because of an injury to junior Matt Dotson.

Dantonio didn’t give specifics, but he said Dotson, who made the trip and was available to play, was hurt during the week and did not practice.

“He hadn't practiced all week, so we held him (out),” Dantonio said. “So Noah Davis got back involved, but there was a little bit more of Matt Seybert and Trent Gillison today because of the injury.”

Seybert was the only tight end to catch a pass but Gillison started while Davis, who missed all of last season with an injury, saw his first action.

Extra points

There was some concern that redshirt freshman running back Elijah Collins suffered an injury in the second half after he was taken to the locker room riding a cart.

However, Collins, who ran for 76 yards and a touchdown, was back on the sidelines soon after and appeared no worse for wear.

… Sophomore cornerback Shakur Brown missed his third straight game with an undisclosed injury.

… True freshman J.D. Duplain saw his first action of the season, playing the final two series at left guard. He was joined on the last series by fellow freshmen Devontae Dobbs at left tackle and Nick Samac at center.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau