Originally created 12/30/98

Dogs' Stinchcomb exemplifies success



ATLANTA -- Sometime late New Year's Eve, his career will close as the most decorated football player in a generation at Georgia. That's only if he's not the most honored ever.

He's an All-American on the field and the GTE Academic All-American of the year off it.

He's a member of the nationwide "Good Works" team that recognizes outstanding achievement in community service, and he graduated in just three and a half years with a 3.96 grade-point average in finance.

A model citizen and an exemplary athlete, the kind that are etched firmly in a program's lore. Yet Matt Stinchcomb hopes for just one thing when his collegiate career concludes Thursday in the Peach Bowl against Virginia.

"I would just be happy if they remembered me," the 6-foot-6, 291-pound Lilburn native said. "Sometimes you tend to forget about guys you played with.

"Being remembered around here would be a pleasant surprise."

Somehow, you get the feeling his legacy won't diminish anytime soon. The Bulldog offensive tackle has fashioned a stellar career that made him a finalist for the Lombardi Award. But his athletic accomplishments are probably overshadowed by his work off the field.

He works with Habitat for Humanity, the Athens Homeless Shelter and the Clarke County Mentor program.

Yet he reveals very little about himself. He rolls his eyes at most compliments, tries to avoid issues that focus attention squarely on him and incorporates his teammates into everything he says.

"I just think that's part of him," said Jon Stinchcomb, the freshman who's a spitting image of his older brother. "He just never wants to portray a conceited side of him. He just doesn't want other people to perceive he's egotistical.

"But look around and see who people look up to. You see what kind of person he is. He's a true role model."

The younger brother's lone regret is that -- barring something unforeseen at the Peach Bowl -- he won't get to play with his brother at Georgia, something he dreamed about when he arrived in Athens.

But Jon's not the only one lamenting Matt's imminent departure.

Since coach Jim Donnan arrived to open the '96 campaign, Stinchcomb has been a fixture at tackle, starting every game.

"Matt always faces the top players," Donnan said, "and he always rises to the occasion against good players."

While questions arose about his play this season, it seems the pros have few doubts. Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. rates Stinchcomb among the top tackles in the country. Because of his near-flawless technique, Kiper at one point rated Stinchcomb as the eighth-best prospect for next spring's draft.

"He's the most athletic tackle I've ever seen," said Virginia All-America defensive end Patrick Kerney, who will line up across from Stinchcomb most of Thursday afternoon. "Usually, when you come to tackles, if you have real good feet, they put you on defense. Not him."

Stinchomb doesn't talk much about the NFL. He tries not to think beyond the next game.

But sometime in the spring, he'll make some franchise very happy -- as much for his talents on the field as his compassion off it.

Surely, someone will remember him.

Matt Stinchcomb's accolades:

Two-time All-America tackle

GTE Academic All-American of the year ('98)

Two-time Academic All-American

Graduated with 3.96 grade point average in finance

Recipient of Ramsey Endowed Scholarship for Academic and Athletic excellence

Recipient of National Football Foundation Post-Graduate scholarship

Member of AFCA Good Works team for outstanding commitment to community service

Finalist for Burger King's Scholarship Athlete of the Year

Todd Graff covers college football for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3645 or tgraff@augustachronicle.com.