There are several athletes who could be considered the face of Servite football, such as running back Malik Felton, who changed the team’s offense when he switched from wide receiver mid-season, or lineman Troy Niklas, who is the big-time college. But it would be hard to argue that the player in the center of the defense isn’t that person.
Matt Inman, a senior linebacker, has played with injuries for the past two years, and when the Friars (14-0) step on the field at Home Depot Center against Concord De La Salle (13-0) on Saturday night in the CIF State Open Division bowl game, Inman still won’t be 100 percent. He has been bothered by a high ankle sprain this season. A year ago, chronic stingers down his neck and arms and a cyst in his tailbone made him more than uncomfortable.
“Against Mater Dei, he had nothing left,” Servite coach Troy Thomas said. “He could barely walk. He was in a boot for two weeks and kept playing. We gave him a rest against Jordan. We had to convince him to stay out. He’s an old school guy. When people see him, he’s a brute linebacker who hits people, but he’s so much more than that. He really is a good teammate. They know how much he gives, how much he cares, how much he sacrifices.”
That’s one reason his teammates can easily talk about the team rather than the individual. And when Inman talked to his teammates they listened. He talked about not winning a championship for the ring, but for the opportunity to play another week with the brothers in the locker room. Then they went out and beat Mission Viejo in the Pac-5 finals, 41-27.
“I’m not a big pregame speech guy,” Thomas said. “I think they’re made in the offseason and leading up to the week, everything’s been said or it’s too late.
"But when it comes from a player it means something on game day. Before this game he got emotional. He said we’re playing for one more week, it’s not about the ring. It was a great emotional speech. I think the team felt it, and I know the coaches did.”
So Inman and his teammates will step on the field one last time this season trying to complete a perfect season. They have won 25 games in a row and will try to beat a program that once won 151 in a row. And when De La Salle lines up on offense, the face they will see is Inman’s.