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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? — Matt Romar keeps faith, finds life after Oklahoma in hometown Port Arthur

Matt Romar’s dream was to play in the NFL. The youngest of six children to a single mother, he focused his life on football through middle school, high school and college.

Then his life changed, several times.

Romar began playing varsity football his sophomore year at Memorial High School under head coach Kenny Harrison and defensive line coach Nelson Barnes. He played as a defensive end, though he didn’t get much playing time until his junior year, when he really shined.

He had such a breakout year, he began getting scholarship offers the summer before senior year from 12 schools. A few days before signing day he committed to the University of Oklahoma.

The hardest part about the freshman year at college is homesickness, he says.

“You ask anybody while I was in school and I was telling everybody ‘As soon as I leave, I’m not coming back. When I’m gone, I’m gone,’” Romar said. “My mom and them dropped me off at my dorm and stayed a little while for like an hour or so, and when they left, it felt like I’d never see them again, like I was dead. It took me two or three months just to get over that.

“Imagine being around these people your whole life, since your were a little kid, the summer after your senior year you get dropped off to college and suddenly you’re around people you’ve never seen before. You’re in a whole other state, a whole other city, and around new people and don’t know anybody. It was real hard.”

It would be the first of several life-changing moments for him.

Once he’d become accustomed, he dedicated his spring semester as a freshman redshirt to improving his skill.

“This is what I mean by saying that hard work beats talent any day. This is proof right here,” he said. “I started off sixth string as a nose tackle going into spring camp, and I worked and worked, studied film, my workouts, just doing extra work like I started to throughout my whole life.”

Romar was driven. Growing up he and his family didn’t have much and appreciated the things they did have, like Romar’s chance to play at Oklahoma.

“Coming from where I came from, just gaining a full ride scholarship to a college is a blessing, and it’s nothing but God and me putting in the effort to get towards it,” he said.

The effort paid off. Romar was starting his sophomore year in 2014 as a defensive tackle. It was just an “all-right” season for him, Romar felt.

He suffered injures in his junior year that sidelined him more than he liked. Romar was called “injury-prone,” which he didn’t like.

“You have to understand: Football within itself is a gladiator sport, especially playing defensive line,” he said. “Any position you could get hurt at any point. That just comes with the game of football.”

Senior year came. At the end of the Sooners’ first game of the season against Ohio State, Romar found he could barely walk. Teammates had to help him to the locker room. He tried to play again against UTEP but lasted only a couple of snaps.

Then his is life changed again when an MRI revealed one of his lumbar vertebrae had split in half. He was devastated.

“It felt like everything I worked for was taken away, and I didn’t know why,” Romar said. “I did everything the right way. I graduated. I have a bachelor’s in criminology. I didn’t get in trouble; I didn’t do any drugs, nothing like that. It was hard for me to understand.”

Romar learned a lesson in the middle of his climb into professional football — there are no guarantees.

“Everybody needs to understand, and it’s something that I had to learn because I went through it, everybody’s not promised to get into the NFL,” he said. “There’s only a certain amount of people that can make it. When your time comes and you do get a chance, make sure that you do take advantage of it, and I’m referring to on and off the field, especially school and your degree.”

Romar had his degree, but had nowhere else to go but home. He returned quietly to Port Arthur at the beginning of 2018 after graduating in December. His back injury had been kept out of the news, so no one knew why he wasn’t going into the NFL.

Over the past year and a half, Romar learned another lesson — keep faith.

“First things first, keep God first,” he said. “Don’t ever forget about God.”

His post-football life began as a helper for a scaffolding contractor.

He began working for the City of Port Arthur through a staffing company, starting out as a meter reader, beginning around August of 2018. He was getting a little better pay now. The city hired him directly to work for water services and required him to take some licensing tests. During this time he applied to Motiva.

“I’d never worked a job a day in my life,” Romar said. “My focus was on football, that’s what I was working towards. But all those things were adding to my resume just by God blessing me with these jobs.”

Motiva had him take an assessment test online, then he got an interview. His interview lasted an hour and a half. Through it all he kept his faith.

“One of the things that mom told us all the time was ‘All you need is faith the size of a mustard seed and you can move a mountain’ and I never lost faith,” he said.

The same day he was going to take another licensing test in March, his life changed again. He received an offer from Motiva that nearly doubled his pay.

“Since I’ve been home, it’s nobody but God that’s been blessing me, to be in the position that I’m in,” he said. “I kid you not, this is why I say it’s nothing but God, just the way I was placed in these positions and the people I’ve met.”