Mike Singletary is regarded as the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl-winning defence, whose menacing stare and tenacious determination made him one of the greatest middle linebackers ever to play in the NFL.
But Matt Singletary feels no pressure to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, who is a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Having Mike Singletary as a dad is cool because he doesn’t expect me to try to be him,” Matt Singletary said. “He says so long as I’m trying my best in whatever I do, he’s happy.
“I say this in the nicest way possible but I don’t really worry about what people think. You’d like people to like you but you can’t please everybody. As far as expectations go . . . I can only really do the best I can. It’s more internal than focusing more on what everyone else is saying.”
And what the six-foot-four, 258-pound linebacker/defensive end has now is another lease on his football life after being added to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ practice roster Thursday.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I feel very blessed and thankful to get it because there’s a lot of people who don’t get the opportunity.”
Matt Singletary has had plenty of time to adjust to the countless comparisons to his father, who moved into the NFL coaching ranks upon retirement. Mike Singletary spent two-plus seasons as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers (20078-’10) and is currently a linebackers coach with the Minnesota Vikings and the assistant to head coach Leslie Frasier, a former teammate of Singletary’s in Chicago.
Matt Singletary admits being the son of a football legend can be an advantage in that it opens a few more doors. However, with that comes the heavy weight of expectation.
Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin said Singletary’s lineage certainly caught the CFL team’s eye.
“That’s part of the reason, yeah,” he said. “I’m sure you guys will want to bring my son (Karter, who is just over a year old) in in a couple of years because of my bloodlines.
“We’re always evaluating players. He was a name that came across the desk that we thought we wanted to evaluate so he’s in the evaluating process right now.”
And Matt Singletary has plenty to learn in his first exposure to Canadian football, with its three downs, longer, wider field, 12 players per side and unlimited motion.
“In one sense, you just want to say football is football but in another it is completely different,” Singletary said with a chuckle. “There are a lot of similar elements but the different twists on it make it interesting.
“You definitely need to keep your head on a swivel just to see where everyone is coming from. The sideline is no longer another defender because there’s a whole lot of room and a lot more ground to travel around.”
But the 24-year-old, who has a brother and five sisters, is taking an even-keel approach to his new life challenge.
“It could be overwhelming because everything is new and I don’t know anyone,” he said. “But you really just have to take a step back and say, ‘This is what’s going on, here’s what I need to do.’
“You need to occupy your time and use it to your benefit by studying and watching film and getting into the playbook. They have a nice gym facility so I’ll eat, go over there and work out, watch some film and watch the games that are.”
Matt Singletary followed in his father’s footsteps to Baylor in 2007 but transferred to Cal-Poly in 2010 after Mike Singletary became the 49ers head coach. One reason for the move was that the coaching staff that recruited Matt Singletary at Baylor was fired in his freshman season. Another was Singletary didn’t feel he was mature enough at the time to be on his own.
“We had a very strong Christian household and when you’re on your own no one’s there to tell you this or that,” Singletary said. “Time management and balancing and finding your identity apart from your family was on me and it was something new.
“Getting back to faith and surrounding yourself with good people was important. I wasn’t getting in trouble but I wasn’t doing the things I should have and I felt that was the main thing I started picking up on when I got back closer to home.”
Matt Singletary doesn’t remember actually watching his father play for the Bears — after all, he was just four when Mike Singletary retired. And he says his dad was also very good about separating his day job from his family responsibilities.
“It’s hard to answer, ‘What’s it like having a dad like Mike Singletary,“’ he said. “Honestly, I think he’s the best dad in the world but people see him as a football player whereas I see him as an amazing dad.
“I don’t remember watching him play but I remember being there and seeing him and it was really cool. But it was never, ‘My dad is Mike Singletary,’ it was always, ‘My dad plays football and football is fun’
“When you’re growing up you heard more about him from other people because growing up my dad was never, ‘Hey, I did this and this.’
Matt Singletary was bypassed in the 2012 NFL draft, but signed as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota and attended rookie minicamp in May.
“That was a very new experience,” he said. “I had been training with dad at the Will linebacker position and it was one I had never played before.
“I was so thankful to have that opportunity. It was great to see what that level was and how people moved and how it all looked.”
For years, Matt Singletary looked at football as a fun game. But he sees it much differently now.
“You really have to think about it as a business,” he said. “You have to focus on what am I putting my body (through), how am I recovering, what am I doing to recover?
“Now a toe sprain isn’t just a couple days out. You might not be playing anymore. It’s just putting things into different perspective and the impact different things have now that they didn’t have before.”
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