Southeast Missouri State seeking to be a 'football hub' for top athletes

A Jackson runner and blocker converge on a Warrenton defender Friday at Houck Field. The two teams were participating in a two-day team camp organized by the Southeast Missouri State football program.
Tom Davis ~

The Southeast Missouri State football program had its most successful season ever in 2018, as it won nine games, the last of which occurred in the NCAA FCS Playoffs. The Redhawks had six starters that are Missouri natives contribute to that success and several more in reserve capacities.

So it was not a shock when the Redhawk coaching staff invited nearly 600 prospective student-athletes from the region to participate in a two-day team camp at Houck Field Thursday and Friday.

“Cape Girardeau is a hub,” sixth-year Southeast coach Tom Matukewicz explained. “We’re the largest town between St. Louis and Memphis, so as a town, we are a hub for a lot of Missouri. As a football program, I want to be a hub for local football teams.”

The high school athletes gained exposure during the two days in a number of ways. First of all, the athletes got to play live 11-on-11 football in front of the entire Redhawk coaching staff. That, in and of itself, is a rarity, Matukewicz said.

“We’ve done this just in Missouri,” Matukewicz said. “I’ve never done it anywhere else. A lot of other (states) have rules against going 11-on-11 in the summer, but Missouri doesn’t.

“So the team camp made a lot of sense and it has been very well attended.”

The 2019 Southeast roster has 31 players from this state, including nine in the latest recruiting class. Matukewicz said that a camp like this not only benefits his football program but the university, as a whole.

“We want the (athletes) to get excited about coming to camp,” Matukewicz said, “and playing in front of some college coaches. Obviously, we get the guys on campus and not all of them are going to be recruited, but at least they have all come to campus and experienced campus. So maybe they will come back as a student.”

One of the most intriguing football players on campus last week never even broke a sweat, but that didn’t diminish the significance of him being in Cape Girardeau.

The Hayti football program did not participate in the camp, but Indians star defensive player Adreian Stevenson visited Southeast unofficially (meaning the Redhawks didn’t pay for the visit) and Matukewicz was spending time with him after offering him a scholarship earlier.

The Redhawk coaches are prohibited from commenting on prospective student-athletes, however, the high school coaches can talk and Jackson coach Brent Eckley was giving the camp a thumbs up.

“I would think that this would be a huge benefit for (Southeast),” Eckley said of the camp. “From our perspective, it is just awesome that they do it right here.”

Eckley has taken his student-athletes to a number of these camps through his 25 years in the business. This summer, the Indians took part in camps at Indiana University and will also visit Southern Illinois and a camp in Marion, Illinois later this summer.

“We’re right across the road,” Eckley said, “as opposed to going to St. Louis. We can’t do anything else like this without traveling for two hours.”

The 2019 Redhawks will feature players from 17 states, but just in this recruiting class are athletes from Charleston (running back Q’Nairies Anderson), Festus (running back Andrew Graves), St. Clair (offensive lineman Luke Feddersen), St. Louis (wide receiver Jalen Bethany), Imperial (wide receiver Dylan Hawk), Dexter (offensive lineman Gabe Jackson and linebacker Corbin Strong), St. Charles (offensive lineman Logan Mesle), and Grandview (offensive lineman Jaden Rosenthall).

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