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November 8, 2010

Small-town Hegarty ready for Army game

ARMY AA BOWL: Army All-American selection tour | U.S. Army AA announcement tour gallery

When Matthew Hegarty attended the U.S. Army National Combine last season, he saw a map that showed where each prospect was from and he quickly noticed there weren't too many pins sticking out in New Mexico.

Not traditionally a football hotbed, Hegarty was then motivated even more to prove he's not only a standout player but someone worthy of U.S. Army All-American Bowl recognition.

It didn't take long for Hegarty, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound offensive tackle from Aztec, N.M., to earn his Army game invitation and Monday morning at his high school he was presented with his game jersey.

From last season's combine to the game that will be played in just a couple months, Hegarty is thrilled about his selection and ready to prove once again that he can compete at the highest level.

"It's a really big honor to be selected," Hegarty said. "I had a good showing down at the combine and some of those other guys were selected to the game. The competition is just great and it's good to get to be a part of that. It will only make me better to go against some of these top guys.

"I'm definitely looking forward to the game. It should be a blast seeing all those guys especially a few of the guys going to Notre Dame that I talk to. It will be a good time to just see them down there. I feel really honored to be able to represent my town and my state and to just go up there and be able to play."

At the time of the Army combine, Hegarty had six offers and Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every wrote soon after that Hegarty would get 25-plus offers once college coaches could locate Aztec, N.M., on the map. Rivals.com rates Hegarty fifth at offensive tackle, No. 40 nationally and tops in the New Mexico state rankings.

College coaches quickly found the town that's tucked away in the northwest corner of the state and major programs came calling for Hegarty, who said townspeople who know about his Army recognition have certainly embraced the honor.

"I'm glad I put them on the map in that sense," Hegarty said. "The community really has supported me. The people that know about it at least have embraced it so far. They've been really cool about lending their support for it."

The recruiting process didn't take long for Hegarty, who committed to Notre Dame in late April.

As Every predicted, numerous teams from across the country got involved in Hegarty's recruitment including both Arizona schools, LSU, USC, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and many other powerhouses.

But Hegarty felt most comfortable with Notre Dame and even with the recent Irish struggles said that he's sticking firm with his commitment.

Lots of people know about Hegarty from little Aztec, N.M., and a lot of coaches became aware of him after the Army combine. He'll play in front of a national audience in the Army game and will gain even more notoriety once again competing against many of the nation's top prep standouts.

"I had done well at some camps in the past but I wasn't on the radar a lot," Hegarty said. "At the combine I really solidified my position out there. That's what I really liked, going out there and competing against some really good guys and it was just a blast."

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