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Major college football offers piling up for imposing Billings West TE Matt Ludwig

Matt Ludwig
Posted at 11:08 AM, May 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 18:33:32-04

BILLINGS — The skill set speaks for itself. The size, the speed, the power, the versatility.

Matt Ludwig's abilities as a football player became self-evident during his first season at Billings West last fall. Golden Bears coach Rob Stanton said the junior-to-be is "one of the best kids I've ever coached, obviously."

But now others are taking notice, in the form of major college football programs. Ludwig, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end, has seen his recruitment ramp up to a level not typically seen for high school players in Montana.

The list of unofficial offers Ludwig has already received presents as a litany of Power Five predominance — Tennessee, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and reigning College Football Playoff champion Michigan are among schools that have made overtures.

In fact, new Michigan tight ends coach Steve Casula was at West High on Tuesday to watch Ludwig work out. Tennessee and Arkansas have already made visits to the school.

"It's an opportunity to go do something I love. It's really awesome to see," the level-headed Ludwig told MTN Sports. "With every new (offer) that comes in, it's pure excitement."

It seems Ludwig, who plays three sports at West, was destined to receive this kind of attention.

The son of a former strength and conditioning coach at both Washington and Washington State of the (former) Pac-12 Conference, Ludwig's size when he was born led his grandfather, who at one time was an assistant coach at West under Paul Klaboe, to bestow upon him the nickname "Moose." The moniker has stuck.

Ludwig was born in Seattle, then he lived for seven years in Idaho. His freshman year of high school was spent in Post Falls before the family relocated to Billings — where his grandparents live — last March.

He arrived on the scene with the West football team during the 2023 season, catching 36 passes for 441 yards and five touchdowns as a tight end and receiver. He also played Wildcat quarterback (rushing for 204 yards and four more TDs) and made 26 tackles as a linebacker/edge defender.

That versatility gives him options. Not to mention his size and agility.

"Most teams are looking at me for tight end," said Ludwig, who has also received an offer from Idaho of the Big Sky Conference. "A few others kind of like the linebacker idea, a few love the tight end idea, but I'm willing to play anywhere. I'll do anything I can to be out on the field as much as possible, especially at the next level."

"He's 6-4 and he's 235, and this year in track he's run an 11.4 (in the 100 meters). So to be able to move that fast for a big body like that is impressive," Stanton said. "He has all the features that they all want, he has the grades that they all want, he has speed that they're surprised he has. All the boxes are being checked."

Stanton said he has coached players that have garnered significant college interest in the past, but not to the degree Ludwig has.

Stanton also said Ludwig is managing all the attention smoothly. And that can't be particularly easy for a 16-year-old, especially in the age of social media and recruiting-obsessed hyper-fandom.

"He's handling it really well right now," Stanton said. "But as I've advised him, 'Keep your circle tight and make sure you trust people that are wanting your attention. Eventually it's going to get overwhelming, and eventually you're going to have to make a decision and that might not be easy to do.'"

For what it's worth, Ludwig says he won't be making a college decision based on any Name, Image and Likeness compensation that is now available to athletes, and he has no interest in bouncing from school to school — a trend that is also very prevalent in college sports.

When he commits to a school, he wants it to be just that: a commitment by definition.

"For me it will just be about the right fit," Ludwig said. "The bigger the better is something people say, but the right fit and the right culture is going to bring me in. Build me as an athlete and more importantly as a person.

"The NIL stuff, I don't want to focus on that because it's just another distraction. Does it help athletes? It for sure does. But when I'm looking at a school, it's really about who's going to bring me in and who's going to build me and who's going to keep me away from that transfer portal and make me love the four or five years I have at that school."

Crazy as it seems, Ludwig still has two more years remaining at his current school, which means the spotlight and scrutiny can only increase going forward.

Next year will be an important one in the process for Ludwig, as official offers will be tendered to him when he is a junior. But Ludwig said he hopes to make a decision when the moment feels right, not based on any particular timeline.

In the meantime, there's a lot more to do.

"I want to really work on my receiving skills and really, really focus on blocking as well," he said. "Overall I want to improve myself in every way I can. Whatever my flaws are, try to get tips from the coaches and try to do the best I can."

Said Stanton: "We're going to use him a lot again next year. We want to put him in the same packages we had last year and get him the ball as much as we can. He's that effective with it in his hands. He's just a powerful kid."

And that's a fact major college football programs are figuring out for themselves.