Lombardi prepping for life at Tulane

Matt Lombardi shows off his new colors with his younger brother, Aidan. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Matt Lombardi spent most of his summer break sleeping.

Don’t think Lombardi, a Bustleton native and recent graduate of St. Joseph’s Prep High School, is a slacker. Far from it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Lombardi finished up his studies at Prep on May 20. The very next day, he started classes at Tulane University.

“We did it online because of the pandemic, so it worked out where it started the day after I was done with everything, it was before I graduated, but after all my classes were done,” Lombardi said. “I took a Latin American Studies class, and it was crammed in five weeks because of the pandemic. I think I did pretty well. Maybe an A or a high B.”

Not a bad start to his college career. He expects big things for the next five years.

Lombardi is a strong student. He’s also a fantastic football player, which is how he ended up at the New Orleans school.

The 6-foot-8 offensive tackle was a brute in high school, leading the Hawks to state championships in each of the last two seasons. He was named All-Catholic each season, was widely considered one of the top linemen in the state, and decided on Tulane. It seems like the perfect fit thus far.

“I’ve gained 10 pounds since I got up here, mostly from lifting and eating a lot,” said Lombardi, who is tipping the scales at 288 pounds. “We social distance in lifting, we go in different shifts. Some go at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. I’m with the 10 a.m. group, so I do get some extra sleep.

“We do our team meetings over Zoom. There’s been a lot of different things going on because (of coronavirus), but it’s been going great. I love the campus, I love the school. I’m taking online classes so far, but so far, it’s been great. I love it here.”

The Green Wave will love their new player.

Lombardi will likely red-shirt this year, but if he plays in New Orleans like he did at Prep, Tulane will be quite happy with its tackle. And he credits Prep with making him the player he is.

“They took a lanky JV player, and turned him into an FBS football player,” Lombardi said. “I think that’s because of the coaching. I think you get the best coaching there. They really helped turn me into the player I am.

“I loved playing at Prep. It’s a great school. We were good, and they’re still very good. They’re going to be really good this season.

“I think Tulane is getting a long lineman who will work very hard. I love to pass block, that’s my favorite thing to do. I like to use my long arms and my size.”

Ever since he arrived, he’s been preparing for the future.

But he is getting used to living away from home.

Lombardi is very close with his family, which includes his mom, dad and younger brother Aidan. He also admits while the food at Tulane is great, he misses his grandmom’s gravy.

“I wasn’t too worried about me, but I was worried about my brother not having me around, but from what I hear, he’s doing great,” Lombardi said. “I would say he’s my best friend. He’s a good football player, too, he does whatever I do. But he’s doing great. I talk to him all the time, and we stay in touch. We FaceTime. We’re staying close.

“He’s doing great. They drove me out here, my mom, dad and brother, and we’re staying close.”

Lombardi knows there are a lot of people in Philadelphia who have his back, and he’s going to do everything he can to reward them for their support.

He’s also looking ahead to after his football playing days are over, but the communications major wants to stay around the game long after he hangs up his cleats.

“I’m hoping to work in sports broadcasting and do something in that field,” Lombardi said. “I think my best sport would be to do football because I understand it and I know the game better than probably 95 percent of the people who go into the field. But I know basketball, too. I want to stay involved in sports and do that. Any sport I could do would be great, but if I had my choice, it would be football.”

Lombardi has experience in basketball, too, having played growing up, and in high school, he played for St. Albert the Great’s CYO team. But his basketball playing days, at least in organized sports, are done.

Now he’s just counting the seconds until he gets on the field. Like all football players, he’s had to scale back a lot of his team-oriented workouts since the coronavirus started, but soon, he’ll be back doing what he loves.

“I just can’t wait to start playing football, even practicing,” Lombardi said. “I think we’re going to have a really good team this year. My job will be to get better. I’m younger, I just turned 18, so I think red-shirting will help me this year. I’ll be ready when it’s time to play. I’m already learning.”