Sept. 9, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Senior defensive end Matt Masifilo entered this season as the sole returning starter on the defensive line. An honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection in 2010, Masifilo started all 13 games and led Stanford’s interior linemen with 33 tackles and had 4.0 sacks among his 4.5 tackles for loss. The product design major carries a GPA of 3.06 heading into his senior season.
Playing with big-name players Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Delano Howell and Michael Thomas, Masifilo takes pride in doing his job on every play and deflects credit to the players and coaches who surround him. In this student-athlete interview, Masifilo talks about academics and athletics.
Q: What interests you about your major, Product Design?
A: I’ve always been a creative, innovative thinker and Product Design appealed to me because it gave me the freedom to observe the world and figure out ways to attack situations to improve them and create new opportunities. I founded a company that I worked on all summer and having the background in product design allows you look at things from all angles and figure out where the opportunities are. What’s great about being a Stanford educated entrepreneur is that it opens the world to you and lets you attack anything you choose.
Q: How do you balance football and academics?
A: We have great coaches that are here to help you grow into a man and Coach (Randy) Hart and Coach Chester (McGlockton) are great mentors with years of experience to share. What’s great about this football program is that everyone is obsessed with what their job is and that’s the key to what’s pushed us over the years, especially with Coach Shaw and his whole staff. Coach Shaw is obsessed with Stanford football and when you’re obsessed with something, you do whatever it takes to get the job done and that applies to everything. Our coaches teach us to attack our obsessions with everything we have and I attack school like I attack on the football field. When there’s no time to rest, there’s no time to think.
Q: What experience made the biggest impact on you in the classroom?
A: The first series of the product design core, especially professor David Kelley who is someone who everyone in the academic world should look up to. The way he taught me to think about how the world works and how to attack a project in the product design world really intrigued me and created a passion in that part of my life similar to the passion I have for football.
Q: How has your role changed as the only returning starter on the defensive line?
A: It’s crazy how fast the time has flown by. Brian Bulcke and Sione Fua left a mark on Stanford football and with the youth in our unit we want to exceed what we accomplished in the past. We have a chip on our shoulder and we’re hungry. Most of these guys don’t have much game experience but everyone is throwing their bodies into it and getting after it. Without experience you don’t have the tricks that a veteran does, but the technique will come with effort and we’re attacking everything and getting better every day.
Q: What’s it like sticking with the 3-4 defense after changing from a 4-3 last year?
A: It’s great to have the same defense that we had last year. As Coach (Shannon) Turley stresses, “every year the price increases” and we look back at last year as a testament to that team. We understand we’re a new team this season and we’re fighting to show our identity and come out and be known as a physically dominant team that gets after it.
Q: What are your strengths on the field?
A: I’m not a big talker. When I have to lead I try to get after it and get the obsession going by bringing energy from a physical standpoint and let the guys who want to talk do that. That’s my personality and being a fifth-year senior I have to be more vocal because everyone is so young but I thrive by staying true to my personality.
Q: How do you define success as a defensive lineman?
A: We’re all aiming for production and the bottom line is if we’re getting penetration in the backfield then we’re doing our job up front and we’re all having fun. We like to race to the ball and individual stats are never on our mind. Our standard is to do our jobs and be productive. If we get double teamed it’s an exciting challenge, the bottom line is to stir the backfield up and party with the rest of the defense.
-- Sam Cohn, Stanford Athletics