Some things never change — for Lehigh sophomore Matt Solomon, that means being a two-sport athlete.
After spending his high school career on both the football and track teams, Solomon spent his freshman year at Lehigh competing on the track and field team as a jumper. Last spring, he walked onto the Lehigh football team as a wide receiver.
A state champion in both track and football at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida, Solomon received interest from colleges in each sport. However, he faced challenges playing in one of the best high school programs in the country.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Brisson said that while Solomon’s football situation may not have been ideal in high school, he had an opportunity to shine in track, which ultimately opened the doors to Solomon becoming a two-sport collegiate athlete.
Brisson said Solomon was a good high school player and particularly noticed Solomon during his junior and senior years.
“The problem from a football standpoint was that he was at one of the nation’s best high school programs,” Brisson said. “He was behind some guys that are playing in the SEC, Ohio State, just some ridiculous programs. Had he been at a lesser program, maybe he would’ve been highlighted a little more.”
Solomon was told that if a spot opened up on the football team, he would have an opportunity to take it.
“The coaches were talking to me since I was in high school,” Solomon said. “So when I committed for track, they told me, ‘just keep working hard and when a roster spot opens up we’ll bring you on.'”
When Solomon got the call last spring that a roster spot had become available, he didn’t hesitate.
“His face lit up,” Brisson said. “The tricky part is that first semester on campus, he wouldn’t have been able to come out until the start of class. We’re already 30 practices in. It wouldn’t have been fair to him. (We told him) your best bet for your success in both sports — stay with track your entire freshman year and then, if a spot opens up going into your sophomore year, we’d love to have you.”
Although it has been time-consuming, Solomon said he has handled the workload well and continues to go out every day and compete.
For Brisson and wide receivers coach Tim McGorry, Solomon’s quickness adds an important element to the offense.
Solomon’s background in track has been instrumental in his speed, and competing at a high level year-round has helped him not only stay in shape, but also drastically improve as a competitor.
“I know that running track definitely helps you become faster, so for football, I’ll definitely be faster,” Solomon said. “And then for football, it definitely gets you stronger, so I’ll be stronger for track.”
While it is a challenge to balance two sports, McGorry, Brisson and Solomon all said that track and football can feed off one another to boost Solomon’s success.
“A positive from track is knowing how to run,” McGorry said. “The fact that he is competing is a positive, and will help him develop. He can improve on being a little more sound, being a little better with releases off the ball, one or two things.”
Brisson thinks time and additional practice will help Solomon develop where necessary.
“The way we practice, he gets a lot of reps, and his speed has jumped out quite a bit,” Brisson said. “I’m optimistic moving forward that he does have a more substantial Saturday role. He has legit scholarship-level speed for a wide receiver.”