He only stands 5-10. But he’s hard to miss.
Reed senior quarterback Matt Denn is everywhere.
He’s in opponent’s secondaries before they know it. He’s in DI North defensive coordinator’s nightmares. He’s in the state record books.
His 42 career passing touchdowns are tied for fifth in DI state history. His 37 career rushing touchdowns are tied for seventh. And his 4,838 career yards from scrimmage are good for second—just 290 yards shy of the state record (5,128) set by Antoine White in 2000-01 at Las Vegas High.
“It’s hard to gauge exactly how many wins he is worth to us. I’ll just say it’s a lot,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “I think his impact on the field, his impact on us as a team equates to wins. I really feel that strongly about him.”
While the numbers are something most would typically see in a video game, Denn said he tries to ignore them. However, it’s nearly impossible to push them out completely. Howren will occasionally list stats after the team watches film on Mondays.
He does care about one stat though. Victories. And he’s had a lot of those as the Raiders’ quarterback. Reed is 21-4 the last two seasons, including this year’s 10-0 mark heading into the postseason.
“Stats aren’t really my biggest worry. All I worry about is the wins,” Denn said. “Because when people get caught up in stats then they start getting cocky and everything. So I just try to stay out of it.”
Professional athletes drone over similar scripted lines to build an image and receive endorsement deals.
Denn says it because he’s being sincere.
“I think as good as football player he is, he’s a better kid,” Howren said. “He’s just a great kid to be around. I think that’s probably just as important. That’s probably why he’s the football player he is, because he’s so humble. He’s a genuinely good kid … He’s not a ‘me’ guy.”
When Reed’s 2015 season comes to a close, Denn will go down as one of the best career statistical quarterbacks in Nevada large-school history. But that almost wasn’t possible.
After quarterbacking the freshman team and the JV squad his first two years at Reed, Denn was penciled in as the backup quarterback for the 2014 season. The plan was to get him on the field as a wide receiver (he had a punt return for touchdown against Damonte Ranch in the third game of last season).
Denn had other ideas.
He started fall camp taking No. 2 reps behind senior Jackson Gilmore (now a quarterback at Feather River Community College) before slowly earning time with the starters. Eventually, a couple games into the season, Howren didn’t have a choice but to give the job to Denn.
“The goal is always to get your best 11 on the field. So he was one of our best 11,” Reed’s coach said. “It just so happened to be that he became one of the better ones of that 11.”
He went on to become the best one out of everyone in Northern Nevada’s 11—earning DI North Offensive Player of the Year honors.
This year, after a full season of experience and an offseason to prepare, he’s been even better. Howren said Denn has improved by “leaps and bounds.” His senior quarterback has already eclipsed last year’s total touchdown mark (38) with 43 scores and has as much as three games left against Northern Nevada opponents.
“Last year everything was going 100 miles per hour. Our offense was trying to go fast, trying to learn everything,” Denn said. “So having the offseason to really let it all sink in and remember all the stuff and just be more confident really, has made it so I can slow the game down.”
As of now, Denn has two options after high school—both involve football. He’s been offered a scholarship to quarterback for the Coast Guard—an NCAA Div. III affiliate in New London, Conn.—or to walk on at Nevada as an athlete.
He said he’s been focused on this season and the looming postseason so he hasn’t put extensive thought into the decision but will start pondering once the season comes to a close. He doesn’t want to start thinking for another month.
Denn and the Raiders are the favorite to win what would be their fifth-straight regional title, and sixth in seven years.
He only stands 5-10. But he expects to go out looking down on the rest of the DI North.