Marc Narducci: His first choice turned out to be best choice

Dan Mastromatteo of Holy Spirit has had an on-again-off-again commitment to the Tar Heels because of coaching changes.
Dan Mastromatteo of Holy Spirit has had an on-again-off-again commitment to the Tar Heels because of coaching changes. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)

Holy Spirit's Dan Mastromatteo has chosen N. Carolina - again.

Posted: January 15, 2012

Holy Spirit senior linebacker Dan Mastromatteo recently made an oral commitment to attend the University of North Carolina - again, and again, and again.

After the third time he committed to the school, Mastromatteo insists there will be no changing course.

It really wasn't his fault that he was put in such a crazy predicament.

High school seniors may sign letters of intent for football on Feb. 1, and Mastromatteo won't be able to write his name fast enough to make things official.

"It was a little tense and up and down, but I'm happy how it ended," he said.

Not long after Mastromatteo first committed, North Carolina fired coach Butch Davis on July 27 because of an ongoing NCAA investigation concerning improper benefits and academic misconduct.

Shortly after, Mastromatteo decommitted.

Yet he really liked the campus and the school, which might be a lesson for recruits - pick the school, not the coach.

The day after Davis was fired, defensive coordinator Everett Withers was named interim coach. Mastromatteo committed again.

"I just felt it was such a good place that I recommitted," Mastromatteo said.

He also didn't make his decision with blinders.

"I knew if Coach Withers didn't get the job as head coach, there would be a new staff and that would bring a lot of anticipation," Mastromatteo said.

And that is what happened.

Larry Fedora, the former head coach at Southern Mississippi, was named North Carolina's coach last month. (As an aside, Withers has become the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State under new coach Urban Meyer.)

So recently, the new North Carolina coaching staff re-recruited Mastromatteo. That meant a visit to Mastromatteo's Absecon home from assistant coach David Duggan, who also was an assistant under Fedora at Southern Mississippi.

Mastromatteo asked one simple question.

"I wanted to know if they were just doing this to honor the commitment or if they wanted me," Mastromatteo said. "He said he felt I would do well in their scheme."

That was good enough for Mastromatteo, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound Inquirer first-team All-South Jersey selection, who would fit well in many schemes.

NCAA rules prohibit a coach from commenting on a recruit before he signs, but one has to think that North Carolina liked what it saw of Mastromatteo on tape.

There was an added twist to the situation. Helping Mastromatteo with recruiting was Chalie Roman, who resigned after the season as Holy Spirit's head coach and will serve as an assistant at St. Augustine.

Roman still has been helping Holy Spirit players with recruiting, despite no longer working at the school.

"Those guys are my guys, and I love those kids and feel complete responsibility making sure they get help during the recruiting process," Roman said.

Mastromatteo is glad his former coach has been there for him.

"He has helped me so much the past four years, and I look at him as a big brother," Mastromatteo said. "This situation has been kind of tough, and he has helped me through it."

What Mastromatteo has gained is peace of mind.

This was a situation that lingered for months, but his strong belief that North Carolina was the best place for him made Mastromatteo determined to see this through.

For Mastromatteo, the recruiting process was just like a game in which the momentum keeps swinging.

"It's a long process and there are peaks and valleys and sometimes it's tough, but I got to meet a lot of people," he said.

And he also got to learn plenty, about not only recruiting, but also the benefits of sticking to one's original convictions, no matter how many obstacles get in the way.


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com, 856-779-3225, or @sjnard on Twitter. Find his Rally columns

at www.philly.com/narducci

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