If NFL history has taught us one thing, it’s that undrafted free agents can end up making some serious contributions on the field. Some of the best players in NFL history did not hear their name called on draft weekend. As a result, these players got their chance in the NFL as undrafted free agents. Iconic names like Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, James Harrison, Adam Vinatieri, Tony Romo and Wes Welker prove that not all roads to the NFL lead through the Draft.
For Rhode Island native and NFL-hopeful Matt Sewall, this journey will be an exciting one. Despite going undrafted at the recent 2018 NFL Draft, he caught the eye of at least two NFL teams, who have invited him for a workout. While he is hopeful that this path may lead him to once unfathomable heights, the soon-to-be Bryant University graduate has his feet planted firmly on the ground.
Sewall, who played quarterback at Portsmouth High School (Portsmouth, Rhode Island), was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Rhode Island as a senior. Upon attending Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, Sewall made the switch to wide receiver. Throughout his career, he amassed 100 receptions for 1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior, he also carried the ball eight times for 117 yards (an average of 14.6 yards per touch) and one touchdown. Sewall made his mark on special teams, as well, by returning four kicks and eight punts, averaging 13.5 and 8.9 yards per return, respectively.
Having seen, first-hand, the athletic prowess that Sewall can bring to the table, I was not surprised to see that he had garnered the attention of some NFL teams. During his Pro Day workout at Bryant on March 20 (at which I was in attendance) Sewall put forth a very impressive performance. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with him regarding his professional aspirations, his time at Bryant, and the tall task of proving oneself as a native of the ‘biggest little State in the U.S.A. ‘
Q: Matt, congratulations on your scheduled NFL workouts…we know that you had one last week with the New York Jets, and one this week with the Houston Texans. How was your experience with the Jets and are there any ‘lessons learned’ that you will be taking with you to Houston this week?
Absolutely, there were a lot of lessons learned from the Jets workout. I was incredibly fortunate to showcase my skill set to a first-class organization like the Jets. I am very appreciative of all the reps I got, as well as all the conversations with current players and coaches. For certain, I learned a lot in terms of how to conduct myself and what being professional entails on a day-to-day basis.
On the field, there was a monumental amount of things that I learned. Coming from a small school in Rhode Island, I expected a pretty big adjustment and learning curve, especially for the first couple of days. The level of the ability and knowledge that these players (especially the defensive backs) have is simply amazing. I’m proud to say that the mental aspect of learning the plays is something with which I felt comfortable. As someone that has been around the game of football since I was four years old, I pride myself on being a quick study on the football field. So, by the second and third day, the jitters started to wear off and I was able to play my game. It taught me that I can compete at this level with continued hard work. I am so grateful to everyone that I was able to meet. Those are lessons that I will be taking with me to Houston this week, to another first-class organization, and work as hard as I can.
Regardless of the outcome of these workouts, I am so blessed to have had this opportunity and work to make the most of them.
Q: You appeared in and started 10 games for the Bryant University Bulldogs in 2017. You caught a career-high in passes and had a great season overall. Did playing in Coach Perry’s up-tempo offense help you to showcase your talent?
Yes, Without a doubt. Coach Perry’s offensive style suits my style of play very well. Our coaches definitely put me in the right position to make plays and be productive. I’m always critical of myself, so I always feel that there is room for improvement, and this past year at Bryant is no different. That will motivate me in the next phase of my career. But, I was honored to play with such a talented receiving corps and the overall team in general. I’ll always be grateful to Bryant for the opportunity which they gave to me. I’m excited to see the progress that this team makes over the next couple of years. Having been there, they have the potential to be dangerous. I wish them the very best.
Q: At Pro Day in March, you were a standout to me, as I covered the event in person. You posted some impressive numbers with your vertical leap and 40-yard dash, and also made some eye-opening catches from QB Mack Lawrie of Bentley University. How did the Pro Day experience shape the way that you will approach NFL workouts?
My Pro Day experience definitely helped to elevate my level of confidence. To see the numbers that I posted be comparable to those of professional hopefuls like myself (including those that were invited to the NFL Combine) only helped solidify to me that I can contribute at a pro level. All the training and hard work I put in allowed me to showcase my talents and my work ethic. Bryant offers great facilities for work-outs of that type (such as the Conaty Indoor Facility and the Bulldog Strength and Conditioning Center,) and that helps tremendously. All that factored into my performance and helped to prepare me for these workouts in May. Even though I might not pass the ‘eye test’ of being a prototypical wide receiver, I try to maintain a quiet confidence in myself that I can play with anyone on the field. Hopefully, my play on the field will speak for itself.
Q: Rhode Island is often a tough starting point to begin an NFL career. Although, we have seen guys like Mike Cloud and Will Blackmon do it (just to name a couple.) However, it’s often an uphill battle for native New Englanders to achieve that next level, due to a lack of national attention on New England college football. Despite that, you consistently show that desire to prove the doubters wrong and show everyone what RI can do on the national scene. Does that provide any extra motivation, or is it more hype than reality?
I would say it is a motivating factor, for sure. With my size and background, I face an uphill battle of proving myself from the start. Having played all of my football in Rhode Island (playing for Portsmouth and Bryant,) I definitely use that as extra motivation. The Northeast has a reputation for developing great football minds (i.e coaches, mentors, etc.) However, I do believe that Rhode Island should get more credit for the football talent that it has produced. My brother Bobby (who played for Brown University) and I both have used that to fuel our competitive fire.
Mike Cloud is a product of Portsmouth that played great in the NFL, including for the Patriots for a brief time. My old rivals like Bishop Hendricken High School (attended by Will Blackmon) and East Providence High School (attended by former NFL safety Jamie Silva) have developed some great pro football players. Those players have been very supportive of me, and I appreciate that far more than I could ever put into words. They have taken the time out of their busy schedules to send me words of encouragement. As a result, I want to make them proud each time I take the field. I take great pride in my home state. This is where I was born and raised. Being a Rhode Islander is like a belonging to a close-knit family and I just want to make the Ocean State proud.
Q: Lastly, whichever fortunate NFL team that signs you to a contract, what will they get in Matt Sewall?
They will be getting someone that wants to make an impact in any way that he can. I have always been a ‘team-first’ player, and that will never change. I was well-raised to know that you need to earn what you receive. If I am lucky enough to have an NFL organization give me the chance, I will make my impact felt. Whether it be at receiver, on special teams (either in coverage or punt/kick returning), I will be there to contribute in a positive way. I also hope to use my platform to help give back to the community, off the field, as well. Rhode Island will always be my home and I will always do what I can to help at home. However, I look forward to being a pillar of the community in which I play, wherever that may be. I hope to catch the eye of at least one person that will give me that chance. If that happens, I will give every ounce of effort I have to help my team succeed in every way possible.
From one Rhode Islander to another, Matt…you have already earned the respect of Rhode Islanders and football fans alike…both on and off the field.
Please be sure to watch for a sequel to my profile on Matt within the coming week.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the NFL and the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC.