Sinclair comfortable in new role
Matt Sinclair can't coach.
Can't go off-campus to recruit.
Can't evaluate players.
Yet the former Illinois linebacker is vital to recruiting efforts for Tim Beckman's program.
Sinclair, who started in mid-April as the assistant director of player personnel and relations, works closely with director of player personnel Marcus Berry.
"We joke around that we're the closers," Sinclair said. "The coaches need to get them here, and then we'll make them feel like they're at home. Coach Beck said in my interview how important our role is. If a kid comes here and it feels comfortable and it feels like home to them, that's ultimately what they're going to base their decision on. At least the kids we want."
Sinclair, 31, started for three seasons at Illinois after contributing his true freshman season on the 2001 Illinois team that won the Big Ten and played in the Sugar Bowl.
After a pro career that saw him have stops with three NFL teams (Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins), Sinclair spent the past four years working as a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley.
And coaching at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, where he worked with the linebackers and served as co-defensive coordinator.
The St. Louis native said coaching in the Chicago suburbs helped him build numerous networks he uses now in his role at Illinois.
"As far as recruiting goes, it means more to the coaches in Chicago that I'm a Wheaton South guy more so than an Illinois guy because they know what kind of program and kind of character kids Wheaton South produces," said Sinclair, who was on staff with the Tigers for Illinois quarterback Reilly O'Toole's final two seasons of his prep career. "That's one of the reasons they're excited about a guy like Coach Beckman being here. They can trust sending their kids down here. Not that they couldn't with Coach (Ron) Zook, and I love Coach Zook. They feel comfortable having that familiarity, and of course near St. Louis, having grown up there, it's very similar."
Surreal. It's how Sinclair feels sometimes now that he's back at Illinois, the place he played and the place he also met his future wife, Jacqueline.
Sinclair had his share of off-the-field shenanigans at Illinois. Now he's married, has two children and is happy he's back at Illinois in his current role.
"Coach Beckman, to his credit, knows how important it is having former players back around and being familiar with the program," Sinclair said. "My role is basically to reach out to guys and make them feel comfortable and involved. If we're not the biggest ambassadors of the program, who will be?"