Wilton senior football player Matt Gulbin said he and his teammates have felt like pingpong balls being knocked back and forth the last few weeks.
As the CIAC, Department of Health and local school boards wrestled with the decision whether to play football this fall or not, the athletes have been the ones bearing the brunt of the flip-flopping decisions made by adults.
“It’s not good for the mental health of kids having these constant changes in plans,” said Gulbin, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound GameTimeCT First Team All-State tackle who has a scholarship to play football at Wake Forest next year.
“I know our team has not been going to parties, not socializing in large groups to make sure we’d have a season. None of that mattered, I guess. We had the hope after the announcement last week that we could go to the workouts and that we would be playing by October, but obviously the Department of Health thought differently. I was seeing places where the virus is worse playing football and I had more hope. Connecticut is doing really well and I really thought we’d have a shot to play.”
Gulbin, along with countless football players across the state, were rocked by the news Friday that after months of back-and-forth the CIAC announced it would not be moving forward with 11-on-11 football.
It was one final plunge on the roller coaster state athletes have been riding this summer.
This followed an announcement Aug. 27 where the CIAC went against DPH recommendations in saying 11-on-11 football could proceed.
While his career will continue in college, many of his senior teammates could be missing their final chance to play.
“My heart goes out to all the kids who won’t play another down of football in their lives. Their careers are over,” Gulbin said. “It’s heartbreaking, it really is. I wanted to end my career on a high note and have a chance to suit up with my guys. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It is not a good day for Connecticut football.”
Gulbin has been a leader of the Warriors’ offseason workouts, according to coach EJ DiNunzio.
“He would work out in the morning with his trainer but he would still be in the weight room every afternoon with his teammates pushing them to get better. He’s always the first one in and last one out,” said DiNunzio.
“Matt’s goal was to play college football and since his freshman year he has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal. He has improved every year and he deserves everything he has worked for. Matt has a scholarship and is in good shape. It is all about the other guys who were going to have to go out and prove themselves this year to maybe get a D-II team to look at them. I really feel for all the seniors who are missing out after putting in so much work over the years.”
DiNunzio said that while Gulbin is intimidating on the field, he is one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet off the field.
“Matt has that switch that he can turn on and off,” DiNunzio said. “In school he is a super nice kid, polite, well spoken but that switch goes on when he hits the football field. Then he is one of the toughest son of a guns you will ever see. That is what you want a football player to be and Matt can do that better than most kids I have coached.”
Many coaches have brought up looking at the option of moving football to the spring for an abbreviated season.
Gulbin said he would be interested in playing in the spriong, though he wondered how it would work with teams like his that have a lot of lacrosse and baseball players on the roster.
As for the potential option of playing 7-on-7 football this fall where linemen like Gulbin do not participate?
“That’s ridiculous,” Gulbin said. “Football is a team sport and without linemen, it’s not football. 7-on-7 is used to help wide receivers and quarterbacks work on their skills, but I’m 6-4, 300 pounds. I’m not playing tight end or receiver. I think that’s insulting to cancel the season and offer 7-on-7 as an alternative.”