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Senior Angelo Matos has seen his Penn career take him from the football team to the sprint football team with a trip to Guatemala and plenty of extracurricular activities in between.

Credit: Nicole Fridling

It isn’t that uncommon to find Penn students who hold leadership positions in multiple clubs. It is much more rare, however, to find one who has done that and been a part of a varsity sports team. Angelo Matos has done both – without even counting his sprint football career.  

The story of how all of that happened is a complicated one, with many twists and turns along the way. In fact, it starts before Matos even began his first semester in college. 

During a pre-freshman program, Matos met many incoming recruits for Penn football. After spending some time with them, Matos, a three-year captain and letter-winner in high school, decided to walk-on to the team. However, a season of long practices and no playing time led him to look in a different direction. 

“After a year, I realized it was too much of a time commitment for me given other things I wanted to do while I was in college,” Matos said. 

Those “other things” included Engineers Without Borders and La Vida Magazine, clubs that have been extremely important to Matos throughout his time at Penn. 

The desire to balance out his commitments led Matos to join sprint football, which offered a culture more conducive to what he wanted from his time in college. 

“I loved the sort of balance the team had,” Matos said. “I had more time to focus on school and at the same time play football.” 

His first season was a successful one, as the Quakers went undefeated and won the Collegiate Sprint Football League title. Matos played on both sides of the football as a right guard and defensive end and even scored a game-winning touchdown against Cornell. Despite these positives, his time on the team proved fleeting, as he left the team before the start of his junior season. 

“I had a bulging disk, my grades were slipping, and I also wanted to focus on clubs, so I took the year off,” Matos said. 

Leadership positions in clubs were certainly a main focus of his time away from sprint football. Being a part of the marketing team for La Vida Magazine, Penn’s only Latinx-interest publication, allowed Matos, a Dominican immigrant, to explore his own identity. 

“[It] was pivotal to my Penn experience,” he said. “Being able to delve into the club and care about representation for Latinos and Latinx people on this campus was really important to me.” 

Matos was heavily involved in Engineers Without Borders as well, serving as the president of its executive board at Penn and leading an international service trip to Guatemala. His time was spent at GBMs, interest meetings, and interviews instead of on the football field. 

After taking a season off, Matos decided to rejoin the team, with his life off the field much more settled than it was a year before. 

“I was able to reach the positions I wanted to within my clubs [and] was able to get my grades up,” he said. “It feels good to be able to play for another year.”

Matos’s return to sprint football has been well-received by the team. Coach Bill Wagner noted his vast enthusiasm and natural talent. 

“He’s got so much energy,” Wagner said. “He could be an all-league defensive end. He’s powerful, he’s strong, he’s athletic, he wants to win. Sometimes we have to control him, but he has a lot of spirit.” 

From Matos’s perspective, rejoining the team has been an extremely positive experience as well. 

“It’s honestly been all love, like the culture always was when I first switched over from the big team,” Matos said. “People really did welcome me with open arms.” 

And after a year away, Matos welcomed them, too. 

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