By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Kegel will be the first admit that sitting in the Havre Daily News office on a Thursday talking about football is the last place he wants to be.
It's not a knock against the HDN office, which is quite spacious and will even be receiving new carpet soon. No, it's not because he's missing out on the burgeoning Havre night life. Havre night life is an oxymoron if I ever heard one.
And it isn't a knock against Havre. Matt has never had a problem coming back to his roots even while he was starring as a quarterback at Washington State University.
It's just that Matt would rather be somewhere studying an offensive playbook and preparing for the next day's football practice, than making football picks.
"I'm still following my dream of playing in the NFL," he said. "I'm not about to give up on it yet."
Especially after having that dream on his finger tips, only to see it slip away.
Kegel signed a free agent contract with Minnesota Vikings earlier in the year, but never made it out of training camp, being released.
"It was a good experience," he said. "It was fun, but I didn't get very many reps when I was there. I didn't get much of an opportunity to show them what I can do."
While there is no doubt about Kegel's ability to play the game, he was in a tough situation since the Vikings had three established quarterbacks in Duante Culpepper, Gus Frerotte and Shaun Hill.
"They have three really good, experienced quarterbacks," Kegel said. "But they are trying to bring me back to their practice squad."
Joining the Vikings, or any team's, practice squad would be very beneficial for him. It would allow Kegel the chance to stay in shape, work on his game and prepare himself for a possible stint in NFL Europe.
"That's kind of what I'm looking at now is going to Europe," he said. "It would be good to get on a practice squad so that team would send you to Europe under their team."
Even though the opportunity in Minnesota didn't work out, Kegel still had a blast.
"Duante is a really good guy," Kegel said. "And Michael Bennett was a very close friend of mine."
But even Kegel admitted that he sometimes got starstruck.
"It's kind of weird you sitting next to Randy Moss," he said. "He's the greatest receiver in the game and he's taking you out and buying you dinner. He's a really good guy."
Until Kegel signs with a team's practice squad, or heads to Europe, he is staying in shape and being a bit of nomad, visiting Havre and living with his aunt and uncle in Missoula.
He will take in his first Pony game in quite awhile tonight and is anxious to see the new stadium and quarterback Gary Wagner play.
Wagner, and Kegel's younger brother, Justin, have smashed most of Matt's passing records at Havre High. Although he isn't complaining, he did wonder what it could have been like.
"They throw 30 to 35 times a game," Kegel said. "We might have thrown 15. It would have been fun to play in their offense."
As for his picks, Matt isn't guaranteeing much, just that he'll get 17 of 22 picks right, while beating his mom's mark of 10-8 last year and beating expert Julie Wagner, who he said gets advice from him for her picks.
Admittedly, Kegel wasn't up to date on all of his high school picks, but in college picks he went with Cal Poly to upset MSU at home, while picking Florida to beat Tennessee. In the pro games, he took Indianapolis and Minnesota in the weekend's biggest games.
Hopefully soon, Matt will be able to say he his picking the team he plays for in pro picks. But he is still taking everything in stride with a good sense of humor.
When asked about his biggest college moment, he answered, "beating USC as a freshman."
In that game, he threw an 89-yard scoring strike to Marcus Williams pass for his first collegiate touchdown. When asked if Bengals quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Carson Palmer played, Kegel joked:
"Yeah, he played and he got benched in the second half. And now look he's making millions in the pros, and I'm sitting here talking to you."
It could be worse, though, our roles could be reversed - now that would be really depressing.
Last week shows why we didn't have a female expert last year. While worrying more about what her picture would look like, Julie went out and took top honors with who else, Wells. George and last week's guest Keith Evenson tied with 15-6 records. Harvey and I finished at 14-7, while golf pro Jim Kato hit a bit of a shank off the tee with a 13-8 record.
As always we are looking for suggestions for guests or suggestions for games that we should have. Please feel free to call, e-mail or stop in the office.