Yetur Gross–Matos was a fifth-quarter player as a seventh grader at Freedom Middle School in Spotsylvania County.
The fifth quarter allows rarely-used backups to gain experience without the concern of getting injured against more physically dominant competition.
But when Gross–Matos entered Chancellor High as a freshman, it was apparent he’d made significant strides since those humble beginnings.
On the first day of practice that summer, Gross–Matos lined up for the 40-yard dash.
Despite his tremendous size, he was faster than every Chancellor player with the exception of former defensive back Deandre Miller.
“I remember standing next to [then-head coach Bob Oliver] and said, ‘Take a look at this kid,’” former Chancellor assistant coach J.P. Gibbons recalled. “He pretty much beat everybody running. Yetur came over and Coach Oliver asked, ‘Are you a tight end?’ He said, ‘Nope I’m an offensive tackle.’ We were like ‘Are you sure?’ ”
Gross–Matos went on to excel at offensive tackle and defensive end for the Chargers before signing a national letter of intent with Penn State in 2017.
After three seasons rushing the passer for the Nittany Lions, Gross–Matos entered his name in the NFL Draft, which will be held April 23–25 in Las Vegas.
Starting today through Sunday, Gross–Matos will put his vast physical attributes to the test at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
His speed, agility, strength and mental aptitude will be tested as he attempts to become the highest-drafted prospect ever from the Fredericksburg area.
“I don’t think he’s nervous,” said his father, Rob Matos, the lone family member to join him in Indianapolis. “It’s more-so getting the appropriate rest and pacing himself for extremely long days. They’re not here to make you comfortable. They’re here to make you uncomfortable so they can decipher whether or not to make you the face of the franchise or invest significant resources in you.”
Gross–Matos (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) is looking to make area history.
Former Spotsylvania running back Steve Atkins went 44th overall to the Green Bay Packers in 1979, while Stafford graduate Torrey Smith was selected 58th by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
Gross–Matos is widely considered a first-round pick. Some mock drafts have him in the middle of the first round, while others place him toward the end.
“That would mean a lot to me,” Gross–Matos said of becoming the area’s only first-round pick. “You don’t really see many people going into the NFL Draft from Fredericksburg. So to be on that stage would be incredible. I’ve always wanted to be there. I know I have people supporting me and it would be a tremendous honor.”
Gross–Matos has been training for the combine at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Fla. He’s represented by agent Andy Simms of Young Money APAA Sports, which lists rapper Lil Wayne as a member of the executive team.
Gross–Matos and his family didn’t take the process of choosing an agent lightly.
“He’s the person I felt was most genuine and most accommodating to my family’s needs,” Gross–Matos said. “A lot of people talked about what they could do for us, but he’s the one that really put it all forward. It was an easy decision to go with him.”
Gross–Matos and other defensive line hopefuls will take part in on-field combine testing on Saturday from 4–11 p.m.
Gross–Matos said he’s always graded out well in performance drills and is eager to show NFL franchises who he is as a player and person.
He said his time at XPE the past two months has made him sharper mentally and physically. He said his best attribute is his ability to move well in space along with his combination of speed and strength.
His father is expecting a strong combine performance.
“He’s as big as he’s ever been. He’s as strong as he’s ever been. He’s as fast as he’s ever been,” Matos said. “I’m not putting any numbers out there but it potentially could be very exciting.”
Gross–Matos has been evaluated by many publications. A recent mock draft by Joe Marino of thedraftnetwork.com slots him at 27th overall to the Seattle Seahawks. CBSsports.com has him going 28th to the Baltimore Ravens.
Marino writes that Gross–Matos’ possesses “a loaded toolbox of traits” that enabled him to rack up 33 ½ tackles for loss and 16 sacks in his final two seasons at Penn State.
Among Gross–Matos’ positive attributes, said Marino, are his ability to use his length and keep his pad level low despite his physical stature. The analyst states that Gross–Matos pursues the ball relentlessly and makes many plays based on effort alone.
He said two cons to Gross–Matos’ game are a lack of counter pass rush moves and an occasional tendency to misdiagnose run plays. He said there are no red flags.
Gross–Matos was mentioned in a federal lawsuit by former Penn State player Isaiah Humphries regarding hazing allegations, but he’s not a defendant.
“There’s not a whole lot to answer as far as he’s concerned,” his father said of any involvement in hazing. “It’s just not accurate.”
Matos is his son’s business manager. They’ve formed YGM Lobo Enterprises with Matos as the chief operating officer. The business will focus on consulting, marketing, grassroots work, camps and opportunities for Gross–Matos to give back to the community.
But before any of that takes place, Gross–Matos is focused on this week’s events and subsequent interviews so he can secure his draft position.
“He’s really put a lot of work into his preparation,” Matos said. “I think the football side of it is something he’s always done. He’s no stranger to hard work. He’s benefited from training with some of the best in the business. And teams will get an opportunity to sit down and talk with him and see how good of a kid he is.”
Matos said the family hasn’t decided where they’ll watch the draft. He said if Gross–Matos is invited to Las Vegas, he’ll likely accept the invitation.
He’ll potentially have the opportunity to walk on stage, don a team cap and shake the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
It’s something no Fredericksburg area player has ever experienced.
“We’re all excited,” Matos said. “He’s got a lot of people behind him.”