CHS Class of 2014 Matt Gono Survives Rookie Season in NFL with Atlanta Falcons

Nathan Alford, Staff Writer

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2014 Cinnaminson High School graduate, Matt Gono, has put the Pirates on the map after surviving the cuts and making it to the roster of the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted rookie offensive tackle this season.

Gono, a 2014 graduate, was on the Falcons’ active roster for the entire 2018 season, but did not dress for the first 15 games of the season.  However, in the Falcons final game, a 34-32 win over Tampa, Matt did dress and was on the sideline, but did not see action in the game.  For all his hard work, Matt earned the rookie minimum salary in the NFL this year, $480,000.

A graduate of Division III Wesley College, Gono was considered an outsider as a undrafted free agent, but he has found that his background at Cinnaminson and in college has prepared him for this new challenge.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of help along the way, Continued on page 7 and looking back you can definitely see you’ve taken some things for granted,” says Gono. “My perspective is different now, and even though it’s been tough, I’ve had help along the way.”

Many of the coaches that coached Gono are still active at Cinnaminson. Mr. Bret Jenkins, who coached and taught Gono, cited the fact that Gono had not played organized football prior to his freshmen year. Despite the challenge of teaching Gono the complexities of the game, Mr. Jenkins shared that a great work ethic and a serious disposition were what set Gono apart, and he was able to quickly overcome the early obstacles in high school and college.

“Matt was a beast during practice. Whether he was on scout team or first team, he would always dominate while he was on the field, but he was always sort of a gentle giant about it,” says CHS Defensive Coordinator, Mr. Bob Murray. “He knew when to pull back and when to go hard, and he was a very good practice player.”

Gono improved dramatically from his freshman year, as he went from knowing next to nothing about
football during his freshman year to starting on the O-line, but both Murray and Jenkins were surprised that the NFL was Gono’s destination.

‘‘I never really envisioned the NFL, cause to me those guys just seem larger than life and Matt wasn’t
quite like that, but youcould see D1 potential, his size, his strength his feet,” stated Mr. Jenkins. “I never saw the NFL, but I saw high college level.”

Transitioning from high school to college presents several obstacles, but Gono mentioned that playing in the NFL requires more time and energy than anything he has done before. For Gono, playing in the NFL is a full time job that requires each player to invest time beyond practice and working out; a common day begins early in the morning with meetings and film reviews, and ends in the evening after practices
and workouts.

“Practice here is a lot faster, like the speed of everything is way faster,” Gono said. “Practice in college
was longer, but practice here is a little short, and everything moves really fast. It’s super sharp and intense, and you mentally don’t really have time to mess or joke around in practice; you have to be super focused and into it.”

While many students hope to make it to the next level, Gono highlighted that he was always focused on the task at hand, and while in high school or college, his goal was always to excel at his current level.
Gono did mention that the buzz surrounding playing professionally added a new layer to his experience.

“Scouts started to show up all the time and it was a good feeling, but it was a different sensation,” Gono remarked.

As an NFL player, the experience of playing professionally compares and contrasts to Gono’s time at Cinnaminson. The pre-game ritual in the NFL requires a particular focus and preparation that includes group and team meetings, but the Falcons also have more light-hearted approaches to their preparation, including singing songs and working out. Gono did mention one pre-game ritual that the Falcons’ organization could benefit from.

“Patrizi’s speeches – They used to get me hype,” Gono remembered.

Despite the rigorous demands of playing in the NFL, Gono still enjoys coming home and reconnecting
with old coaches and teammates. He says that loves getting together with people who shaped him as a player and person by working out in the weight room or grabbing a meal. Although his time in the NFL is uncertain, Gono reflects upon his time at CHS and can see how prepared he was.

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