ORLANDO — University of Miami right tackle Matt Pipho has faced some of college football’s top pass rushers this season and more than held his own.
Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan, the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year who is projected to be a top-five pick in April’s NFL Draft, managed only one tackle against Pipho in the Hurricanes’ 33-17 victory on Sept. 17. Against USF in UM’s regular-season finale, Pipho graded out at 95 percent while butting heads with Bulls defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, another certain first-round pick according to draft analysts.
But despite his success this season, tonight’s game against No. 24 Wisconsin (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) in the Champs Sports Bowl will mark the final time Pipho, a senior, wears a football uniform.
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While Morgan and Pierre-Paul will be earning big NFL paychecks next season, Pipho will be putting in long hours as a first-year student at UM’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Instead of working out for NFL teams this spring, the 6-foot-7, 307-pound Pipho will be volunteering at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and prepping to begin med school in the fall.
“I’ve wanted to be a doctor for a while and I’m being realistic about my football future,” said Pipho, who was accepted into UM’s medical school in October. “I’ve seen this coming for a while.”
Pipho is a rarity in college football. Talented enough to start 12 games and play 98 percent of the snaps at right tackle this season for the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (9-3, 5-3 ACC) and academically-gifted enough to thrive while taking a rigorous course load that included classes such as organic chemistry and molecular biology.
“I had enough trouble just having pretty easy classes and playing football,” UM center A.J. Trump said. “He’s taking classes that students who have all the time in the world have trouble passing. It’s really amazing what he’s done.”
The same could be said of Pipho’s work on the football field. A native of LaPorte City, Iowa, Pipho said his high school’s offense consisted of “five or six plays.” Because of weather, there was no spring football and the season lasted just three months.
“Matt is the typical over-achieving guy who proved everybody wrong,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said. “It’s about his knowledge of the game. He’s as smart on the football field as he is in the classroom.”
Last spring, Pipho competed to start at right tackle while he was studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He won the starting job and earned a score of 29 in the MCAT and entrance into UM’s prestigious medical school.
Pipho has one more test — on the field — left in his career. On Tuesday, he’ll be matched up against Wisconsin defensive end O’Brien Schofield, who is tied for second nationally with 22w tackles for loss and third in the Big Ten with 10 sacks.
UM arrived Friday and began preparations for tonight’s game with practice at the Citrus Bowl. And Pipho, who is planning on going into radiology, said he’s not particularly nostalgic about his final game and is ready to move on with the rest of his life.
Apparently, so are some of his teammates.
“They’re all talking about getting free liposuction to take away all their fat when they’re done (playing),” Pipho said. “Free surgery. That’s what they want. But it’s going to be a while before I can get them that.”
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