Former high school football standouts earn NFL roles
Sep 07, 2012 | 4806 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Matt Overton snaps the ball during practice with the Indianapolis Colts.  Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts
Matt Overton snaps the ball during practice with the Indianapolis Colts. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts
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West High alumnus Amini Silatolu was named the starting left guard for the Carolina Panthers.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
West High alumnus Amini Silatolu was named the starting left guard for the Carolina Panthers. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Two local football players are ready to start their first NFL seasons after surviving several rounds of cuts to their teams’ 53-man rosters.

Tracy High graduate Matt Overton, Class of 2003, is the new special-teams long snapper for the Indianapolis Colts. West High graduate Amini Silatolu, Class of 2007, was named the starting left guard for the Carolina Panthers.

Silatolu’s former West High teammate, Stanley Arukwe, joined the New York Jets as a free-agent wide receiver in the second week of the preseason but has since been released.

The Colts begin the season on the road against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sept. 9, while the Panthers open on the road Sunday in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers.

Overton, a 6-foot-1, 254-pound rookie, said he was nervous about the prospects of beating out 13-year veteran Justin Snow when the final roster was announced Aug. 31.

“I knew from the get-go that it would be him or me, so I worked hard all through the preseason,” he said. “Hopefully you don’t get a call, because that means they’re releasing you.”

Overton increased his chances of a roster spot by playing strong in all four preseason games, during two of which he was the starting special-teams center.

Before the roster announcement, Overton saw that messages on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook said that Snow was released.

“He had been the second-longest player in Colts history, so it was big news,” he said. “It was at times a bit overwhelming, because it pointed to me that I would get the job.”

Overton, who joined the Colts during the summer as a free agent, added that he approaches his new job with respect for his responsibility of replacing a veteran player.

“He’s a great professional on and off the field,” Overton said of Snow. “That’s what I’m striving for. He set the standard high.”

Silatolu has been fighting for his starting offensive lineman role since the Panthers chose him in the second round of the draft out of Midwestern State University in Texas.

Since then, the 6-foot-4-inch 315-pounder has started all four of the team’s preseason games.

Silatolu stated in an email that the past week was especially busy as the Panthers got ready for Tampa Bay. The team was working out in Sarasota, Fla., because the Democratic National Convention had taken over Charlotte’s Bank of American Stadium, where the Panthers usually practice and play.

“Preseason went well. I got a sneak peak of how the season will be, but haven’t played a full game yet,” Silatolu wrote. “The pace was real fast, just as I expected. My goal was to come here and compete, and that’s what I did.”

Arukwe saw limited playing time on special teams when the Panthers and Jets faced off Aug. 26 in New Jersey, a 17-12 win for the Panthers. The Jets waived Arukwe the next day when they cut their preseason roster from 90 to 75 players. He could not be reached for comment.

• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or brownne@tracypress.com.
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Johnson_Alfred
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September 10, 2012
Congratulations Matt. One NFL game under your belt - May there be many more. So impressed that you never gave up on your goal and worked hard to achieve it. You should be very proud. Signed, Al and Kim Johnson.


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