HAMPSHIRE – Matt Muetterties observed several of his teammates not attending offseason lifting programs last year at Burlington Central.
“No one really went to that,” said Muetterties, the Rockets' 6-foot-5, 265-pound Burlington Central left tackle and defensive lineman. “Last year in the huddle, we’d argue more."
Those arguments perhaps stemmed from frustrations boiling over in a 3-6 season and no postseason. The Rockets haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2014.
The road back to the playoffs doesn't get any easier this season. Burlington Central, voted out of the Kishwaukee River Conference, has joined the Fox Valley Conference.
Muetterties and the Rockets, however, are determined to prove those on the outside wrong who might believe wins will not follow them.
“This year, I feel we’re more of a collective unit,” Muetterties said. “We feel more meshed.”
As a team captain and leader of the defense, Muetterties is not taking his responsibility lightly.
”I just need to get everyone together and play as a team,” he said. “We need to get going and win some games.”
Muetterties, who had 43 tackles and two sacks last season, announced his verbal commitment to Western Illinois on July 16. Muetterties, who also had offers from Winona State and Southwest Minnesota State, is expected to stick to the offensive line at the collegiate level.
“I felt that [the coaches] actually cared about me, and cared about me as a person,” Muetterties said of his decision. “I felt like all the coaching staff was great and I could improve my game there the best.”
His decision will not waver.
“That’s set in stone,” Muetterties said. “I’m in.”
It's a sentiment that seems to have spread across all of Rocket Hill for the upcoming season. Senior wideout and cornerback Nathan Arians’ journey within the past several months helps illustrate the newfound commitment.
Arians admitted he “wasn’t committed at all” his junior season. He started at wide receiver, but wasn’t seeing the results he wanted. Arians had nine receptions for 79 yards.
A recent 7 a.m. phone call from Rockets coach Brian Melvin prior to practice changed his direction.
“He just told me how much I meant to this program,” Arians said. “[And] he needs me out here, so I got out there for him.”
“I definitely don’t regret going out for football,” Arians said. “I love it here.”
It’s showing in Arians’ practice habits. He stresses precision in his routes and making every repetition count.
Muetteries has seen Arians’ growth up close.
”He really changed over the offseason and really bought into the program," Muetteries said. "He’s being a leader out here."