All-Journal Football: Christenson named Defensive Player of Year
NICOLLET – In his four years at Nicollet, Matt Christenson has been known as “Mr. Do-It-All.”
By the time he had taken his final snap as a Raider, Christenson had already cemented his name in the record books as the school’s all-time leader in career total tackles (550), solo tackles (312) and assisted tackles (238). His eye-popping resume and prowess on the defensive side of the ball earned him the title of the 2013 All-Jounal Defensive Player of the Year by unanimous selection.
But Christenson is up for the state’s biggest honor as the sole 9-Man nominee for the 2013 Mr. Football award, which is given to the best player among all classes in Minnesota. The winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 8.
“It’s probably one of the biggest honors you could receive,” Christenson said. “There’s so many kids – even at the 9-Man level – that are in football and to be the one selected at that level of play shows that I’ve done things over my career that have earned those honors and it’s now showing.”
Christenson, who had 143 total tackles this season, was one of three seniors who helped lead Nicollet to an undefeated regular season and its third state tournament berth in four years.
Nicollet coach Tom Murphy, who has known Christenson since he was born, said he knew early on that Christenson could contribute in a big way.
“We identified him coming out of eighth grade as somebody that could possibly play for us as a ninth-grader,” Murphy said. “We didn’t have a big team coming back and actually he was one of the biggest kids we had as a freshman.”
At 245 pounds, Christenson played anywhere Murphy needed him to in his four years at Nicollet – having taken snaps at every position except for place kicker, punter and defensive secondary. Murphy said Christenson’s ability to be coached mitigated some of the position problems that typically come with having a smaller roster.
After Nicollet’s 21-20 win against rival Madelia on Sept. 6, Murphy moved Christenson from offensive line to running back in certain packages to create a difficult target for defenders to tackle.
“He’s been a solid, consistent performer,” Murphy said. “He’s been willing to do whatever we’ve asked of him.”
From skill positions this season, Christenson rushed for 412 yards on 57 carries for eight touchdowns while catching 39 passes for 578 yards and eight touchdowns.
One key ritual that helped Christenson was his study of game film. Murphy said Christenson studied more game film than even he did this season, which directly translated to his on-field performance.
“He watched a lot with his dad and they would talk a lot of situations,” Murphy said. “When teams lined up this year, he knew what they wanted to do.”
Playing for Murphy, whose coaching staff includes his father, Kevin, Christenson was able to put his trust into the system. That trust yielded a 40-5 mark during the four years Christenson played varsity.
“It was pretty important, to me, to be able to have a coach I could trust,” Christenson said. “As a player, when you trust a coach, you can take risks, you can try things and if you know them well enough and you trust them, you know that they’re not going to get on your case.”
Even though Christenson was a standout two-way player in his four seasons, Murphy believes he made his mark at linebacker as the best defensive player he has ever coached.
“He just did some things kids his size weren’t able to do,” Murphy said. “I think it’s safe to say that.”
Christenson will be taking the next step and playing college football next season. The only question right now is, “where?” His list currently consists of Minnesota State, SMSU, St. Thomas, UM-Duluth, North Dakota State and St. John’s.
“I haven’t really narrowed down any of the schools that I’ve looked at,” Christenson said. “Hopefully I can do that in the next couple months and make my way toward the process of picking a school.”