Energetic new strength coach Matt Shadeed injects UMass with new life

  • UMass cornerback Isaiah Rodgers carries the ball during spring practice, March 19 at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2019 6:53:29 PM

AMHERST — Everything about Matt Shadeed screams passionate.

He moves at a mile a minute when UMass is practicing, he speaks just as quickly when giving out instructions and he never seems to be standing still long enough for anyone to pin down his exact location. The new strength coach for the Minutemen is the personification of the culture Walt Bell is trying to implement within the football program.

“It’s not just the lifting weights, it’s not just running, it’s not just growing bodies, it’s the culture piece,” Bell said. “Changing mindsets, changing attitudes, really building the culture of your football team, he’s the guy that’s in control of that because he’s around them more than we are. He’s the guy that’s best for that, not just physically but mentally as well.”

Shadeed embraces how he must appear to people who are first observing his work. He knows he can look like a maniac at times with how often he is screaming at somebody, but he said it all comes from a place of love for the players he’s coaching.

“I want to be somebody who is intense,” Shadeed said. “But the intensity, I want it to be fueled by passion because I care about these dudes and I care about changing this culture and I care about developing young men not just on the football field, but teaching them the rights and wrongs and how to do right and how to be better for themselves. That’s kind of where my fire comes from. I’m hoping people see me running around and they’re like ‘Man, that dude’s hair’s on fire, he’s intense’ but that comes from a passionate place.”

He has quickly been embraced by the returning Minutemen, who have all mentioned an uptick in the energy within the weight room. Much like a typical UMass spring practice, the high-octane workouts during the winter and early spring are packed with enthusiasm at a rapid pace.

Rising senior receiver Sadiq Palmer said there is never a dull moment when Shadeed is around because he fosters a constant sense of competition. He said the fact the strength staff pit the offense against the defense and forces the players to maintain a constant level of excitement is good training for keeping the morale high when things aren’t going well for the Minutemen during games.

Meanwhile, rising senior cornerback Isaiah Rodgers said he appreciates the messages Shadeed is sending and how much he is holding them accountable in every aspect of their life.

“I love him,” Rodgers said. “He’s exciting. He’s very serious and he takes his job very seriously. He’s not only teaching us how to be football players, but he’s teaching us how to be a man, too.”

UMass returned to the weight room on Jan. 22 for its first winter workout and the transformations since then have been noticeable. Shadeed posted about three of the more extreme changes in a player’s appearance and Rodgers said more players are showing off their bodies more confidently after several weeks of workouts under Shadeed.

But the improvements have not just been physical for the Minutemen. Even the way they carry themselves on the field and the overall mood seems to be much improved from when Bell was first hired in December.

“If you just look at the way that they’re moving around and the way that they feel and the way that they talk to each other, you should see a difference on this field,” Shadeed said. “Granted, we’ve got a long way to go physically, but there’s drastic improvement. These kids ultimately want structure and discipline and people to drive them forward.”

Bell and Shadeed have a history of working together starting with some of their first jobs out of college. Shadeed was a paid strength intern with the Southern Mississippi football team when Bell was the team’s wide recievers coach and then the two re-united for two years at Arkansas State.

Bell said it was obvious when he accepted the position that Shadeed was the ideal candidate for the changes he wanted to make at UMass. But for Shadeed, it was a more curious move after working the previous two seasons as the director of athletic performance at Baylor. However, he said it was an easy decision to leave Texas for the chance to work with Bell again.

“His energy, his vision, his passion for teaching young people,” Shadeed said in rapid-fire succession. “We’ve both been able to very fortunately be successful in our paths, and for him to get the head job and give me a call, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”

Ultimately, Shadeed is the one instilling Bell’s culture because he is able to work with the players far more than Bell or his staff can at this time. Shadeed said that was unfortunate, but Bell said he has the utmost confidence in how Shadeed is ingraining the proper mindset into the Minutemen.

“I’ve never seen him have a bad day,” Bell said. “When he’s here and it’s time to roll, he’s switched on and he is rolling, there is no such thing as a bad day for that guy. It has no choice but to rub off on the guys.”

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