EVANSTON — Inside the Michigan State football program, senior tight end Matt Seybert has a nickname.
“He’s got the nickname of Mr. Reliable in our quarterback room," Brian Lewerke said after Michigan State's 31-10 win at Northwestern. "He’s got great hands, gets open and he showed it today.”
Apparently, that named started in summer camp by quarterback Theo Day. Why?
"Catch the ball with consistency is what you got to do,” Seybert said.
Seybert's road to Saturday's breakout performance was long. It was sometimes confusing and had its great shares of doubt.
Seybert began his college football career at the University of Buffalo, where he redshirted in 2015. But, after one year at the Mid-American Conference school, he decided to change course and head to East Lansing.
He said that playing at St. Francis High School in Traverse City, the same school as the Bullough brothers (Max, Riley and Byron), gave him a true desire of wanting to play for the green and white.
“Growing up in middle school watching Max (Bullough) playing on the big screen and stuff, it's just a dream," Seybert said. "You want to be here, and I never got that opportunity because I never earned the offer after high school. I always wanted to play in a Power Five conference, and I knew I could do it at Michigan State.”
Seybert doesn't remember exactly when he left Buffalo, but he remembers the conversation he had with his parents when he finally made the decision.
“The first thing my family and I talked about was, you know, it’s going to be worth it, even if you don’t play until your last season," Seybert said. "Here you get to play for something way bigger than yourself.
"You’re playing for Coach D, Coach D’s record-setting win. That’s something way bigger than yourself. You're playing in the Big Ten Conference, the best conference in college football. So, I knew it was worth it. I knew it was going to be a grind and that it wasn’t going to come easy. And its tough, you have your down days and you almost want to give up, but you gotta stick through it.”
Seybert had to stick through a lot.
After sitting out the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Seybert played sparingly, only 36 snaps, as a tight end in 2017. Then, as a junior in 2018, he got moved to defensive end in spring practice and played in three games (Michigan, Penn State and Purdue) on special teams. During this year's spring practice, he was moved back to offense.
“It's actually a blessing in disguise because going to defense. I got to learn so much more about defense, coverages, fronts... now that I’m back on the offensive side, I can recognize stuff and play smarter. You know, more cool, calm and collected type thing," Seybert said.
"People might say it might have been a waste of a year for me and stuff like that, but if you get the best out of a situation, it definitely helped me improve my knowledge of the game.”
With more opportunities as a senior, that knowledge is beginning to get unlocked against Michigan State's opponents. Seybert entered Saturday's game against the Wildcats with four catches for 62 yards in MSU's first three games.
He got the start against Northwestern because of an injury to usual starter Matt Dotson. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said that Dotson hadn't practiced all week leading up to Saturday's game.
So, it was Seybert's time, and he showed why he is Mr. Reliable.
Seybert finished with four catches for 28 yards and his first two-career touchdowns.
“Honestly, it's surreal," Seybert said after the game. "I'm not going to lie, you guys hear it all the time, people thanking God, but I’ve been praying my butt off lately, like hard as heck, and I’m just thankful ... thankful for my teammates and the offense."
He was a key part in a Michigan State offense that finally looked to put it all together, gaining over 330 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Whether it was catching the ball with consistency that gave him his nickname or his knowledge from playing defense, Seybert used it to success in the Big Ten opener.
After the game, he sat around every Michigan State reporter that traveled to Ryan Field to hear his story. His voice cracked a couple times as he started to reflect on his journey to this afternoon and how much it meant to him to have a day like he did.
And it all began when he made that choice to come to Michigan State.
“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, now.”