When Trevor Provencio first lined up across from Matt Kubly, Provencio thought what most that line up across from Kubly think.
“I thought cause I was bigger than him, I was gonna wreck him,” Provencio recalls, “but he actually wrecked me.”
Provencio was a freshman at St. Francis High then, scrimmaging against Kubly, a sophomore on the junior varsity squad. Now they're starters on a Golden Knights offensive line preparing for a 2012 campaign, but Kubly still isn't all that big for an offensive lineman — 6-foot, 205 pounds he says, though that might be a bit of a reach — and yet he's still playing big for St. Francis.
“He is so much stronger than he should be,” senior quarterback Jared Lebowitz says of Kubly, who squats 395 pounds and bench presses 280. “He absolutely manhandles guys three times his size.”
Indeed, Kubly has proved that he can be a physical force as an incumbent starter at center for the Golden Knights, but it is the intangibles that tell more of Matt Kubly’s story and just how much notions such as leadership, intensity and discipline mean to him and, in turn, why the senior tri-captain means so very much to St. Francis this season.
“He’s been our rock,” Provencio says. “We have three new starters [on the offensive line] and two of them have never played O-line in their life. He tells them what to do and explains it in a way to where they get it. And if they don’t get it, he pulls them away after the play and explains what they did wrong.
“He’s just always there if you need him.”
Leading into every season, St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds has his roster of players vote on team captains that are known as the Golden Knights. Heading into the current campaign, the veteran coach already knew that Matt Kubly was likely to get a vote to lead his team.
“He wasn't afraid to lead as a junior, even on a team full of seniors. It was pretty easy to see he would be a guy that this year's class and this year's team would gravitate to,” Bonds says. “He's a natural leader. It seems to come pretty easy to him. He's a no-nonsense type of guy, but he has the respect of his teammates.”
Along with Lebowitz and senior safety Joe Velladao, Kubly is one of three Golden Knights team captains. It’s a role Kubly takes seriously — much like he does just about everything — and a position he sees as an honor.
“To me [being a Golden Knight] is one of the greatest honors,” Kubly says. “That means that you have the entire varsity team that trusts that you know what to do in any given situation.”
Alas, this season isn’t just any situation. It’s one of massive turnover, as Kubly and Lebowitz are the only two St. Francis players who were scheduled to start last season’s opener against Arcadia that return to start this season. Thus, with leadership this season has come the added responsibility of being a teacher. Neither is a responsibility Kubly has shied away from.
“I just tell them, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask me what you have to do,’” Kubly says. “If you’re not afraid to ask, then things can go forward.”
But Kubly, and Velladao, for that matter, prefer things go forward in a certain way.
“Kubly and Joe kind of bring that military attitude,” Lebowitz says. “[Kubly] and Joe have two speeds: Walking and sprinting.”
A starter in a few games last season as a linebacker, Velladao shares much the same outlook with Kubly in terms of how things are to be done and has an appreciation for just how disciplined Kubly is on and off the field.
“He's a teenager like all of us, but he's very disciplined about all of his endeavors, academically and athletically,” Velladao says. “People see that and it sets a good example.
“His discipline is what sets him apart.”
His discipline is likely a by-product of a lineage steeped in military and law enforcement history.
Both Kubly’s mother and father were deputy sheriffs, with his father, who’s still a sheriff, also a member of SWAT and a helicopter pilot. Before that, his grandfather fought in World War II and his great grandfather was a sheriff, as well. Both his parents are regulars at practices and never miss games, with his mother having never missed a game despite having undergone back surgery last year.
“She almost missed a game last year because of back surgery, but she made it,” Kubly says.
Says Bonds: “They're the nicest family in the world, but it's evident that discipline is big in their family.”
While being serious and being disciplined is paramount for Kubly, and therefore St. Francis, on the practice field, in the weight room and during games, he realizes things can’t always be ultra-serious.
“We like things very uniform, done very well. We’re not lackadaisical,” says Kubly of his and Velladao’s approaches. “We know when to let things go a little bit and when we need to work. I think that’s the biggest thing about being a Golden Knight.”
While Kubly clearly possesses the intangibles, marked by his leadership and discipline, it’s likely he wouldn’t get all that much attention if he wasn’t a valuable asset on the field, as well.
At every level, every season, Kubly has started at center, and wasted no time in acclimating himself with a much-ballyhooed offensive line in 2011 that was filled with seniors.
“He just stepped in as a junior at center and did really well for us,” Bonds says.
Bonds, a former standout quarterback at Hart High before moving on to UCLA, is a firm believer that an offense’s success begins with the center-quarterback exchange. It’s an often overlooked aspect of the game, but one of extreme importance, only magnified with an offense like St. Francis’, which often works out of the shotgun.
“Everything starts with the exchange,” Bonds says. “He was money last year.”
Of course, Kubly’s job is just beginning with the snap and it doesn’t end until the whistle blows.
“He’s got quick feet. He’ll reach you before you get off the ball,” Provencio says. “He’s a fighter, he’ll drive his feet to the end of the play.”
For Kubly, though, in reality, everything begins much earlier than the snap. It begins in the weight room and at practice with all the work he puts in. Then it comes down to lining up and sizing up his opponent.
“I know I have the better technique and I know I’m smarter than the guy in front of me,” Kubly says. “Even if they’re bigger and stronger, I’ll figure a way to beat them. ... Even though I’m not big, I try and play big. I’ll just throw my body into it.
“I will never give up, I will never back down from a challenge.”
Though the season hasn’t just yet begun, Kubly’s already begun leading St. Francis up against the challenge of overcoming the departure of a storied group of seniors. And, just like any defensive tackle lined up across from him, it’s certainly not an obstacle he’s taking a step back from.
“He has no fear in him in terms of going up against anybody in league or on our schedule,” Bonds says. “Last year, he had to go up against a lot of big time guys and he really held his own. I think it's his tenacity that's most impressive. He's never gonna quit ... and he's always got his motor running and he's a great example, not only for the other linemen, but the whole team in how he works in the weight room and on the field.”