Physical play, toughness, work ethic -- Batavia's Weerts has it all
How legit is Batavia senior linebacker and University of Arizona-bound Matt "Mojo" Weerts?
Let's let recently retired Wheaton Warrenville South coaching great Ron Muhitch spell it out.
"You can start with the last name Weerts," said Muhitch, who won 153 games at Wheaton South in 19 seasons as head coach and led the Tigers to three state titles.
"Then, add the descriptors. Big, physical, nasty, aggressive and seasoned to the position of linebacker. Wrap it up in a single-digit number (Weerts wore No. 6 at Batavia) and you have a Division I football player. Put that same package in the backfield (Weerts also played some fullback) and it borders on illegal activity."
Weerts, the captain of the 2021 Daily Herald Fox All-Area Team, was a force in the middle out of Batavia's 3-4 defense, leading the team in tackles and quarterback hurries. More importantly, he helped spearhead a Bulldogs' defense that allowed only 61 rushing yards per game and under 200 yards of total offense. Batavia outgained its opponents by more than 160 yards per game thanks in part to Weerts and the Bulldogs' defense.
"Mojo was our team's emotional leader and best overall player," veteran Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "He's incredibly tough, physical and has a high football IQ. Our team defense set all-time records in first downs (58 allowed in 6 games) and rushing yards allowed, and his presence was a great concern for all our opponents."
Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski saw Weerts up close in a Week 6 DuKane Conference battle at Northern Illinois University. "Matt Weerts is a strong and physical player who fights through blocks very well," he said. "He's an aggressive, downhill-type of linebacker who can be disruptive to any running game."
Geneva coach Rob Wicinski added: "No doubt, the kid has really good football skills. What makes him different and Division I is his competitiveness. He wants it or wants to make plays more than the next guy."
Batavia defensive coordinator Matt Holm said there is a laundry list of attributes that go into making Weerts the special player he is.
"In addition to being a great person, when Mojo steps across the lines, he is fierce, tenacious, intimidating, knowledgeable, focused and has a great work ethic," Holm said. "He has played at a high level as a defensive end as a sophomore and as a middle linebacker the last two years. With all those intangibles he also has very good speed and is tremendous in space. From a pure football standpoint, he is incredibly quick at reading the offense, diagnosing and making plays both pre- and post-snap. All those things make a great recipe for a model football player."
Weerts, who gleaned his popular nickname from one of the Austin Powers movies after a household mishap with a LEGO set resulted in some baby teeth being knocked out, relished playing middle linebacker for the Bulldogs. Weerts' two older brothers, Luke (playing at North Dakota State), and Ben, also played at Batavia (his younger sister, Abby, is on the Batavia dance team).
"I love everything about it," he said. "You are the leader on defense making calls. You fly around and hit anybody you want. I played defensive line as a sophomore, and as a linebacker I used some of those hand-fighting techniques to get to the quarterback. I love blitzing and love getting on the quarterback and getting those hustle points as we call them. I had a lot of freedom this year because of how good our defensive line was. Tyler (Jansey, Batavia's other middle linebacker) and I could fly around and make the hits."
Jansey, a sophomore, said Weerts' instincts and aggression on the field were memorable, but the essence of Mojo stretched well beyond Xs and Os.
"He's an absolute dog -- always there to make plays," Jansey said. "He has amazing instincts. He knows what the play is before it happens. He has the mentality that no matter who has the ball he will hit them as hard as he can. But off the field, he is a brother to me and one of my best friends. I'm sad to see him go. I knew he always had my back and I always knew he would make the play. He will bring the pain and do great at Arizona."
Jalen Buckley, Batavia's talented junior running back and strong safety, said preparation took Weerts to a different dimension.
"He is the definition of practicing like you play," he said. "He goes to practice every day like it's his last. And another thing that makes him unique is the amount of film he watches. His love for the game makes him unique from others."
Holm has no doubt Weerts will light it up at the next level.
"Mojo will succeed at the next level because he has the desire, will and love of the game," he said. "You have to. Playing at that level is not easy."
And this from St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak: "Weerts is a great combination of speed and strength. His ability to play sideline to sideline is at an elite level, and I believe he will be a great addition to the Arizona football program."
Piron and Holm pointed out Weerts had the opportunity to graduate early from Batavia and hit the ground running in Tucson, Arizona this spring, but chose to stay and play the COVID-19-truncated spring season with his teammates.
"He chose not to leave early and stay and play ball with his brothers," Holm said. "With that decision, he also took out an incredible leadership role that helped guys get through a very difficult time. Obviously, COVID threw us all for a loop. He did not let that distract his teammates. He kept everybody focused and playing with purpose, raising everyone's game around him."
Piron added: "He's a special young man."