College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

Coach of the Week: Matthew Rahn

An exclusive interview with head football coach Matthew Rahn, who is the latest Coach of the Week.
Photo provided by COD Athletics.

Matthew Rahn 

Head Football Coach


Lily Goodfellow: When did you start coaching football?

Matthew Rahn: When I was in college, I would come back and coach the summer camps at the high school I went to, which was Wheaton North. And then, right when I graduated college, I worked inside Wheaton North in the Special Ed department and coached football there. That’s when I started playing professionally after that. Right when I thought I was going to retire in 2014, I came to College of DuPage and started my journey here. I haven’t looked back since.


LG: What do you think makes COD a great football program?

MR: I think we, as a coaching staff, know who we are and what we are here for. We are not some coaching staff that’s here trying to squeeze our players out for wins and get our next jobs. This place is more than a job to me. We’re here to be a stepping stone for student-athletes. This place was the only door open for me right out of high school, and I was able to come here, grow, develop, mature, earn a scholarship, and then end up playing professionally. So it’s my goal to keep this program what it was for me. That’s a stepping stone. We’re here to service the kids. Not boost our own resumes or our own egos. We’re here to be a platform for kids to go on and do better things once they leave here.


LG: Do you have many returning players this year and do you recruit new players for specific positions?

MR: Good question. About half of our team is returners. We have a soft number of about 120 guys that we try to recruit to, so during recruiting, once we get all of our commits, our roster will be around 130-135. But by the time it comes for guys to show up, take care of all of their paperwork, and then some guys get late scholarship offers at the end, we’re usually down to about 120. I would say 110 or 115 of those are handpicked. We always leave a couple of roster spots open for an open tryout that we hold twice a year. That’s for guys who feel they were overlooked during the recruiting process and maybe we missed them. We provide an opportunity for them to come work out in front of us and see if they can earn a roster spot that way. 


LG: What are you most looking forward to for the upcoming season?

MR: I’m one of those people who really strives to see growth. One of my favorite parts about this job and one of my favorite parts about working with college athletes is that we get them right out of high school, usually as an 18-year-old. They are coming from a high school weightlifting program, which usually isn’t very in-depth. Kids come here for a myriad of reasons, some because maybe they were 20 or 30 pounds too light to earn a scholarship at the level they could play at. So what I love about it is we get these kids, and some are in their second or even in their third fall if they redshirted, and we see the adult body of them playing football. So it’s not the high school kid that weighed 165 when he came in here. It’s now the second or third-year college guy who now weighs 210 pounds getting to play and showcase what they can do to earn that opportunity they didn’t get before. 

LG: Is there still football camp going on right now or has the season officially started?

MR: Camp technically just ended so we’re starting in-season now. What we call camp is the month of July. Practice four days a week, no pads, basically gym clothes on the field. We implement our entire playbook and get the kids acclimated to college life and get them weightlifting too. The goal is that by the time we hand out pads on August 1st, they’ve had the entire playbook installed twice and walked through it all on the field, so that the new guys are able to compete with the returners without having to learn it and compete at the same time.


LG: I heard you start at 5 a.m. Is that true?
MR: 5:45 a.m. is the first meeting. I’m still trying to get my body used to it. It usually takes me about two or three weeks to get on the schedule. I wake up at 4:15 to be here by 5:00 every day and then I usually leave to go pick up my son around 4:30-5:00 p.m. But I love it. It’s not work. It doesn’t feel like work. 


LG: What was your proudest moment as a player?

MR: Wow, great question. There’s many of them. I was fortunate enough to play in three different professional championship games. Actually five, because I played internationally in Brazil a little bit. The one thing about winning the championship that’s definitely the most memorable is seeing the excitement and joy from my teammates. Seeing all of us, whether it was internationally or here in the United States with arena football, guys from all different walks of life, from different schools, some guys from the top schools played on ESPN, played in the NFL, all the way down to guys that were like me and weren’t even recruited out of high school and had to claw and fight our way to everything we had. We’re all there celebrating the same thing of our hard work coming together as a team. So that’s one of my favorite memories is the 2015 year in my first arena championship that we won. I was at one before that and we lost. Winning it and being with all the guys and seeing how happy they were made me even more excited and happy about it. 


LG: What has been your proudest moment as a coach?

MR: My proudest moment as a coach is when my guys get their scholarships. We can go through any given year that I’ve been here, not just as a head coach but on staff, and I can’t tell you the wins and loss records each year. But I can tell you the guys on the team and where they went, and I can tell you their individual stories. Last year we sent out 34 kids to four-year institutions. That was a program record here at the College of DuPage, which the football program has been here since 1967. We just sent our 35th kid out this year. So the fact that we’re sending out that many kids each year to four-year programs and almost all of them are on scholarships where they have no expenses, where they didn’t have opportunities like that before they came here, that’s what I’m most proud of. That’s what makes me most excited about this stuff.


LG: What has been your biggest challenge in coaching?

MR: The biggest challenge in coaching, and if anyone had the answer to this they’d be millionaires, is getting kids to buy in. We get some kids who come from really good high school programs and some who come from really bad high school programs. So they are on different levels of their knowledge of the game of football. The one thing that they have is the drive to want to get a better opportunity. So they’re all here for that. So we have to meet in the middle, kind of slow it down for some of the guys that haven’t played this level of football before or aren’t used to how in-depth we go, and then also cater to the guys that might have to take a step back to help grow and develop and be on the same page of some of the other guys in our program. The hardest part is getting everyone on the same page and having them understand that although you’re competing with these guys on the team every day, you know offense, defense, we’re stronger together. That’s very rare at the junior college level. It was kind of shown by the documentary, Last Chance U, where the majority of programs we play, there’s a lot of individualized teams. A lot of guys go to those junior colleges, and it’s all about them, and they don’t see the big picture. We’re beating teams like that. We’re beating guys that had the opportunities that my guys wished they had out of high school, simply because we’re coming together as a team and playing as one. That’s one of the biggest challenges we have is getting everyone on board with that. 


LG: Who has been your role model in coaching?

MR: I would say everyone who has coached me. In life, and when you’ve played football as long as I have, I have definitely played for some coaches that I felt I knew more than. But the thing is, if you don’t have a passion for this, you don’t get into coaching. And every coach that I’ve had, whether I felt that I knew more than them or I felt they weren’t the best coach or whatever, they’re all there trying to make us better. So it was always a point of mine to try to get at least one thing out of each coach that worked with me. And because of that, now that I’m coaching, I see that you really have to care for these guys that you’re working with every day. The fact that I had all these coaches that I’ve played for, and they all cared about me and helped my development, I get inspired by them. All of their stories are different and their walks of life are different and how they got to where they were. It shows how small the football community is and the football world is because you can come from anywhere and all meet at the same place. 


LG: What is one highlight of your summer?

MR: The highlight of my summer was the four days that I stepped away from football. My wife made me go to Colorado, which was awesome because I saw one of my college friends that I haven’t seen in 15 years. We stayed with them. I’m kind of a workaholic here. I love my job here, so even when I put in long hours it doesn’t feel like work. But it was a really good escape to get away and see an old friend and spend time away from football.


LG: What is your favorite NFL football team and why?

MR: Well, you’re going to make everyone hate me here now, but the Green Bay Packers. I tell everyone this, and none of our kids get it anymore because of how old I am now. But I say I was the only kid at Lowell Elementary School with a Don Majkowski jersey, who was the quarterback before Favre. My grandfather was an official. He ref’d football games and ump’d baseball games basically until the day he died. And for whatever reason, he was not very fond of George Halas. So I never really got the story of the reason why, but he raised all of his kids (my dad, my uncle, and my two aunts) to be Packer fans. So it’s a family tradition that we’re Packer fans. So there’s not many people in this world that are both Packers fans and Cubs fans.


LG: What is your favorite food to eat while watching football on TV?

MR: Pizza! Pizza or some kind of exotic chip dip. If I’m on Facebook and see a recipe, like a Mexican street corn chip dip, I constantly send it to my wife so she can make it during football season. But nothing beats having a good pizza in front of a football game. What’s yours?

LG: Pizza and burgers. 

MR: What’s your favorite pizza toppings?

LG: Bacon.

MR: I’m more of a sausage, onion and mushroom. That’s my combo.


LG: What one word best describes you?

MR: Committed. I love this job. I love this school. I love the game of football. Both this school and the game of football has done so much for me that it’s very easy for me to put in the hours I do and extend myself to not only the guys on the team but the students here at the College of DuPage. I am committed to this place and these people because of what the school and game has done for me. 


LG: Thank you very much!

MR: You’re welcome!

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