KENOSHA, Wis. – Matt Alviti compiled a record of 33-4, including the 2010 Class 8A Illinois State Championship, during his three years as the starting quarterback at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill.
But after a decorated high school career where he finished rated as the second best dual-threat quarterback in the nation for the class of 2013 according to ESPN, the freshman quarterback finds himself at the bottom of the totem poll at Northwestern, with no pressure upon his shoulders.
“I don’t really like [not having the pressure put on me],” Alviti said. “As a quarterback having the pressure is kind of what you live for.”
Alviti moved into Evanston earlier this summer where he began taking two classes. The 13-hour days filled with class, meetings, workouts and practice were a wakeup call to Alviti; a realization that he was outside his comfort zone of Maine South.
“In high school, for practice, you’re there maybe three, four hours," Alviti said, "But here we go fast. Everything has a fast tempo. So it’s like game speed. It’s more mental preparation than it is physical preparation in college. I have to come in and learn a whole new playbook, a whole new system. Then you have to get used to everyone else on the team chemistry-wise and with throwing the ball and handoffs."
It hasn’t been easy for Alviti, but it’s getting easier every day, he said. At Thursday’s practice in Kenosha, he fumbled a snap taken from under center, a skill he had not utilized much in the offense he used in high school.
Where Alviti shines, though, isn’t necessarily during drills in practice.
“I remember watching him through high school tape and he was one heck of a gamer,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said of Alviti.
But Alviti and Fitzgerald both anticipate that the freshman will not see the field this year, as he will opt to take a redshirt. But both the coach and his quarterback were adamant that this wouldn’t be a lost season.
“I’ve got to learn from the older guys,” Alviti said. “Just do the best I can in practice to help the team out as best I can. I need to learn the whole system and learn what I need to do to play hopefully next year.”
A redshirt’s role, according to Fitzgerald, is vital to the team’s success whether he is on the scout team or pushing teammates to perform better in practice.
“Nobody wants to have that role,” Fitzgerald said, “but it is so important that you assume it with the responsibility that goes along with it from the standpoint of being a great practice player. Coming with right attitude, coming ready to work, coming ready to help the opposite side and if that’s working with the scout team offense or working his fanny off it’s going to help [Alviti] mentally. He’s going to gain confidence.”