Matt Dlugolecki - SDSU

Football: The many moves of Matt Dlugolecki

In his sophomore year at Cumberland Valley (Mechanicsville, Penn.) High School, Matt Dlugolecki was moved to quarterback and discovered that he could play the position well.

Then in the summer of 1998, Dlugolecki's family relocated to Southern California. He enrolled at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) but learned that it would be difficult to compete with Matt Leinart who would become one of the nation's top quarterbacks and eventually signed with USC.

After three months, Dlugolecki (6-5, 220) transferred to Santa Margarita Catholic High School where coach Jim Hartigan was looking for someone to take over the quarterback reins for Carson Palmer who had graduated also gone to USC.

Dlugolecki planned to be that one.

However, a few days later, Santa Margarita landed another transfer, Chris Rix, the all-American quarterback from Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.) High School who had signed with Florida State.

Coach Hartigan moved Dlugolecki to receiver and Rix became the Eagle quarterback.

From the beginning, Rix struggled at his position.

Finally, before the last regular-season game, Hartigan reversed the two roles. He moved Rix to receiver and Dlugolecki to quarterback.

It proved to be a move made in Heaven.

In Dlugolecki's first game against Servite (Anaheim), he passed for 216 yards. In the first-round game of CIF Southern Section Div. I playoffs, he threw for 139 yards, although his team suffered a loss to A. B. Miller (Fontana).

In his opening game this season, Dlugolecki's stellar performances continued against Ayala (Chino Hills). Trailing 17-0 in the third quarter, the Eagles reeled off three touchdowns in a span of 10 minutes to take the lead, 21-17. Two of the scores came on touchdown passes of 36- and 21-yards tossed by Dlugolecki.

Dlugolecki's position as Santa Margarita's quarterback was firmly stablished.

He will be at the helm when the Eagles, ranked No. 6 in Orange County, meet Los Alamitos High School, ranked No. 4, Friday (Sept. 15) at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

Dlugolecki's football career began in the second grade.

"In Pennsylvania," he explained, "Kids in elementary and junior high can play with full pads. This enabled me to get tougher. I played end until I reached the 10th grade. Then the coach discovered that I could play quarterback."

Dlugolecki's goal for this year is to be a team leader.

"Our team is young (only 10 seniors)," he said. "I need to provide leadership in three areas; being vocal, keeping the tempo high, and setting the example in how I act and what I say."

Santa Margarita athletic director Richard Schaaf said Dlugolecki already displays excellent leadership qualities.

"He is a great kid," Schaaf said. "He is never a problem. He's the hardest worker on the team. He stays around after everyone else has gone home, to lift and throw."

Talent alone will not land Dlugolecki where he wants to fly.

"I set high goals for myself," he said. "There's always something higher and better to work for."

Dlugolecki, who carries a 3.0 GPA, will play his college ball at Illinois.