State High Football: Lintal Talks Football, Impacting Lives, And Following In His Father's Footsteps
You may not suspect that Matt Lintal --State High's newest head football coach-- was a coach at all.
His office, one that was once his father's, is tucked away in the back corner of the counselor's office where he has spent much of the past few years juggling his assistant coaching duties with transcripts, grades, and dozens of high school students stopping by for advice.
Lintal himself doesn't seem to fit the mold of the rough-around-the-edges coach with hands looking like the result of years spent in the weight room.
And that may very well be what makes Lintal a unique and perhaps perfect fit for the job. The job opened up after long-time head coach Al Wolski hung up his whistle this past fall.
Lintal is a State College native and a State High alumni with a background in coaching, playing, and dealing with teens in some of the most tumultuous years of their lives. In a world where winning is the only thing that matters, it's clear that the people matter to Lintal as much as the game does. It's an often rare commodity in sports.
But as he has likely told one of his students, you can't judge a book by its cover.
Lintal knows his football after more than a decade of coaching in his pocket as well as college career under the belt. He took the time on Wednesday afternoon to speak with StateCollege.com about his new position as head coach of the Little Lions.
StateCollege.com: You're a State College native, a State High alum. What does this job mean to you from that perspective?
Matt Lintal: This is a job I've always thought about, from my playing days and walking through the halls here at the North Building. This is a place that I love being in and being a member of this great community and being part of State College football in this capacity.
SC: Your dad was a head coach here not too long ago. Does that make it any extra special for you to now have the job yourself?
It definitely does make it more special. My dad has always been my mentor and my hero and the person that I've always looked up to. Now I sit in his old office as a counselor and I'll have the same role as him on the football field as well. So i couldn't be more thrilled. I feel like he had an opportunity to really impact kid's lives and do it in a real positive manner. And I'm real grateful for the chance to have that opportunity as well. And hopefully I can have a similar impact he has had throughout his career.
SC: Not to suggest that football coaches aren't educated people, but you have a bachelors degree (psychology), a minor (religious studies) and a masters (education) which is perhaps a bit outside the norm for your usual high school football coach. What does all of this, especially the ability to relate to your students as a counselor bring to the table for a coaching perspective?
ML: I think the counseling piece that I bring to my coaching style was evident even before the training that I received because that's what I saw from my mentors. My college football coach, my father, it was that piece that it was about the person, it's not just about the wins and losses it's about the individual member being part of something bigger than himself.
Those kinds of lessons are instrumental, so I'm grateful because I don't feel like I have to put on one hat and take off another to go out on the field. I am who I am in the office and on the field in and in the weight room, and I think that's how you build relationships with kids who see you in different roles but being a constant in their lives.
SC: You coached at Bucknell for seven years in a college football experience. What are you able to bring back from that to your job now?
ML: That experience was huge, I got to learn from very, very great people and great coaches. Ashley Ingram (Running game coordinator at Navy) was instrumental in not just the Xs and Os but the other piece, that intangible piece of just coaching people.
Brent Thompson (Citadel assistant) was there with me for seven years and we went through thick and thin together and he taught me a lot about coaching and about people. And that experience truly studying the game of football year round 24-7 is instrumental in coming here because we play competitive football teams and great coaches week in and week out.
SC: Have you talked much with your team and coaches since the transition began? It's obviously harder to get 100+ high school kids in the same place out of season than it might be for college programs in a transition.
ML: I've talked to all the coaches and there will be a lot of familiar faces that will be out there as well next year. Obviously we have at least one spot to fill but Coach Baney and Coach Weakland in particular will be there. They've been instrumental and so supportive just in kind of getting this process moving along in such a positive way.
We're going to have our first team meeting at Memorial Field on Thursday evening. But I've had numerous kids popping in here non-stop and when I walk the halls kids are really reaching out and the support that I've received from alumni and parents and students and just the community in general has been remarkable.
SC: It's championship season for a lot of sports unrelated to football and that always brings up the public school versus private school debate. Do you have a stance on that whole situation?
ML: I think ideally that if the playing field could be even that would be outstanding but obviously the way that we play now we have to go through private schools to get to the state championship. We have Bishop McDevitt on the schedule next year in week two which will be a huge challenge for us. But to be the best you've got to beat the best and that's what we're looking to do.
SC: Memorial Field has been a topic of discussion for a few years now and just finished up some renovations this past offseason. In the long term --whatever that may be-- do you see that changing or wanting it to change?
ML: As a player as a coach, and as someone who has been around thousands of high school stadiums, there are really few places that bring the atmosphere of a Memorial Field. It's a special place, it's a beautiful place on a Friday night. That being said we'll play anywhere.
You know there are definitely some locker room issues for sure, we have one bathroom in the locker room for an entire team of 120 kids. So there are some hurdles we have to jump though to make it the best that we can make it. But when you roll the balls out and you get to play on that field it's a special place and our kids are lucky to have that opportunity.
SC: Across town James Franklin has gone on his tour of the state visiting with high school coaches and their programs. Have you had much interaction with him at this point?
ML: I had a chance to meet him this past Sunday and it was real brief. We have had conversations with them though, I got a text message from Coach Shoop this morning and he's really reached out through his family and Coach Hand's kids have come to check out the school as well. We're looking forward to continuing a great relationship between Penn State and State College and really just promoting football throughout the community.
(Lintal and his staff were scheduled to visit Penn State's practice in person on Wednesday night.)
SC: Any final thoughts?
ML: I'm humbled and honored for this opportunity to lead my alma mater and to have a chance to coach for this community and these students. We're really blessed to have here in State College supportive parents and outstanding people that we get to work with day in and day out and I'm really excited to get out there this fall.
Lintal will continue to work as a counselor while overseeing his head coaching duties although he admits the work load may shift around a bit. Even so, few people get to do both of the things they love at the same time, and it appears that between coaching football and molding the lives of countless teens, State College's newest head football coach is lucky enough to be doing just that.