Matt Stankiewitch couldn’t even get through a full TV show the past few weeks without being badgered with questions. But, they weren’t coming from reporters or NFL representatives.
The interview-style questions were coming from a former Nittany Lion who has been through the NFL Combine process once before — current Oakland Raider Stefen Wisniewski, who lives with Stankiewitch in State College in the offseason.
“Every day, we’re watching TV and on the commercials, he’ll put it on mute and we’ll start talking about the combine or we’ll start talking about a scheme or a defense,” Stankiewitch said in a phone interview from Indianapolis. “So, just little stuff like that really pays off.”
Stankiewitch, the anchor of Penn State’s offensive line this past season, depended on Wisniewski to not only help him prepare for the interviewing process he faced in Indy this past weekend, but also the much-analyzed physical testing, which he completed on Saturday.
Stankiewitch’s 40-meter dash time was 5.43 seconds — slightly slower than his personal best of 5.22 seconds — and he completed 27 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, nine less than the best offensive-line performance at the combine.
Ourlads.com NFL Draft analyst Dan Shonka slots Stankiewitch as a sixth or seventh round draft pick, describing him as “consistent and crafty,” but noted his stock would be higher if he proved capable of playing other positions.
Stankiewitch, who primarily played center in his time at Penn State, said his overseers have made him well aware of this fact and he has been practicing at the guard position to try to become more versatile.
“You have to be able to play guard,” Stankiewitch said. “I’m very open to playing it. Hopefully, it propels me and it increases my stock.”
The NFL hopeful said his physical preparation was mostly led by Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who has continued to work with several former Lions looking to pursue a professional career.
However, Stankiewitch said Wisniewski’s guidance was especially helpful in making him feel more comfortable during interviews and mental testing, when he said “anything you can think of” is fair game.
“It’s a big help because the stuff that we were just doing for the last three, four weeks for [the combine] is the stuff that was asked at my interviews,” Stankiewitch said Thursday evening.
“I even texted him this morning and said, ‘Bro, I really appreciated what you did. It’s really helping me out in these interviews.’ He did a great job and I couldn’t be happier with such a great friend.”
Although Stankiewitch isn’t expected to be drafted nearly as highly as Wisniewski, who was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, he said it especially made sense for them to join forces due to the previous friendship they had.
Stankiewitch referred to Wisniewski and former Lion Andrew Szczerba — who hosted Stankiewitch for his first official visit to Penn State when he was a 16-year-old recruit — as his “two best friends, even today” and he also shares the same agent as Wisniewski.
Meanwhile, as he follows in the footsteps of Wisniewski, Stankiewitch said moving closer to the NFL can be bittersweet, but it has helped him take a step back and realize he’ll continue to be representing Penn State in his future.
“It means a lot to me. Of course, I’m going to miss Penn State,” Stankiewitch said. “But, the thing is now I have to represent Penn State in the NFL and show that coach [Bill] O’Brien has those tools that he can provide to you that propels you into the NFL.”
Matt’s mother, Lisa, said helping to lead this crop of Lions that are prepping to move on to the next level won’t be hard for her son, either, as he has been demonstrating leadership qualities ever since his early childhood.
Lisa recalled one Thanksgiving family gathering in particular when the young Matt was already barking out orders in a backyard football game with cousins and uncles.
“Of course, Matt always wanted to run with the ball,” Lisa said. “He’d say, ‘Give it to me. I want to run!’ It was just funny, because he was so little, but yet he was so much of a leader and wanted to take control of the football game.”