jmuvsuni841.jpg

JMU football plays again at Bridgeforth Stadium after beating Northern Iowa, 17-0.

On Friday at 11:14 a.m., linebacker Matt Binkowski announced on Twitter that he received an offer to play for JMU football. It took just 10 hours and 22 minutes for him to decide that’s where he wanted to play.

“It was the best feeling ever,” Binkowski said. “So much weight off your shoulders. It’s stressful, man. Having to sit everyday and go with the ifs, thinking ‘If I go there, what would it be like, I like this, I like that, I don’t like this, I don’t like that, it’s a relief to finally have that place.”

Binkowski is a 6-foot-1-inch linebacker and running back from Battlefield High School in Haymarket. He decided to play at JMU ahead of schools like Liberty, Navy, Old Dominion and Temple, among others. 

For him, it wasn’t about the difference between FBS and FCS exposure. Binkowski trusts in the talent JMU has produced and sees himself joining those who’ve gone to the NFL. With Harrisonburg being around an hour and a half from Haymarket, he said it made it easier to make his commitment. 

“It’s close to home, and you’re going there and playing for national championships,” Binkowski said. “It means so much to me to be able to play for my hometown, that was the biggest thing for me.”

Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Bryant Haines played a key role in his recruitment. Binkowski said once he gets to campus, he’ll join the linebackers group, but is ready — and confident — to play any position that the coaches decide to place him. 

Binkowski already presents a unique skill set that JMU’s coaches can utilize once he arrives in Harrisonburg. Playing both sides of the ball in high school will help him adjust to the intensity of college football, also opening the door to use him in trick-play packages or on special teams. 

The process of getting Binkowski to the Dukes began in 2018, his sophomore year. He attended a recruiting event centered around JMU’s game against Rhode Island, which ended in a 48-31 victory for the Dukes. From then, it was a slow but sure process that ended with the Battlefield star staying home. 

The timeline from then until now is one that nobody could’ve predicted, especially at the most crucial time in his recruiting process. But, despite not being able to get the exact practice he would during a normal offseason, he’s worked with his family to maintain fitness and strength ahead of his senior season. 

“Me and my brothers, we work out every morning in the garage,” Binkowski said. “We got everything we need. We got a rack, dumbbells, free weights, all that.”

He doesn’t have a particular player he molds his game after, nor does he strive to follow in the footsteps of a prominent player. Instead, he takes his own route, yearning to leave his footprint on the JMU football program for years to come. 

“I want to be the first Matt Binkowski,” Binkowski said. “I want to be the next big thing at JMU.”

Contact Noah Ziegler at breezesports@gmail.com. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.