Zips’ former gridiron star scores big in new career


These days, Matthew Cherry is at home on the red carpet. He came to UA to screen his latest film, "The Last Fall," for UA students.

UA football fans will remember Matthew Cherry for his deftness on the field as a wide receiver. These days, his sure touch and sharp eye are still focused on the gridiron — he's just traded his helmet and playbook for a video camera and screenplays.

Cherry visited campus with his latest film, "The Last Fall," which was screened for audiences at the prestigious South by Southwest Film Festival and won Best Screenplay at the American Black Film Festival. The independent production, marking Cherry's directorial debut, is a dramatization of a little known truth — the career of the average NFL player lasts three years, after which he is likely to be bankrupt, divorced and/or unemployed within two years. 

The Chicago native knows that truth well.

Matthew Cherry holds the school record for most yards on punt returns in a season, with 305 in 2003, the same year he was named Second-Team All-Mid-American Conference.

After UA, Cherry headed to what he hoped would be a long and lucrative career in the NFL. But after playing for several teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens, he was released after three years.

Career transition

At 25, Cherry was faced with trying to hold onto a football career, perhaps playing in Canada, or pursuing a different dream.

He chose to take what he had learned in UA’s School of Communication and follow his passion for filmmaking. He moved to Los Angeles and was accepted into Streetlights, an organization that places minority men and women on sets as production assistants.

After honing his skills as a director on music videos and other productions, Cherry has moved on to documentaries and is determined to be a success in his new career.

"You definitely have to have a strong faith in God to try to get through, because this filmmaking thing, this is 10 times harder than trying to make it into NFL," Cherry said during an interview with CNN. "Seriously. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

Cherry was introduced to Zips fans during halftime at the Nov. 10 football game with UMass at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field and the trailer for “The Last Fall” was shown before he screened the film for UA students.

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