Steamboat Springs Matt Lettunich loves the game of football.
So even when he waited behind players for the better part of his first two and a half years of high school football, Lettunich always knew he wanted to play beyond his prep years.
"It wasn't until into his junior year that we realized how good he was becoming as a football player," Steamboat Springs High School coach Aaron Finch said. "He had two weeks in practice where he really turned the corner and got really physical."
That play made Lettunich a fixture his senior year and helped the 2008 high school graduate become a starter as an outside linebacker/safety hybrid for Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.
Despite not starting the first three games this season, Lettunich finished fourth on the team in tackles and first among freshmen with 47.
"Once I was used to the speed and the systems, I could just go out and play hard," Lettunich said.
Lettunich has been one of the key cogs rebuilding the program for the Pioneers. Five years ago, the program almost was disbanded because of numbers. Now, the team continues to build its base with players such as Lettunich.
Lettunich entered the program not sure how much he would play. He had one advantage in that the Lewis and Clark defense ran the same 3-5 base scheme Lettunich played in at Steamboat.
This season, Lettunich said, in addition to the speed of the game, picking up the playbook was the hardest part.
Still, he quickly acclimated himself.
"A good team goal we have is making the .500 mark," said the 6-foot-1-inch, 185-pound player. "Also, keep getting tackles and trying to get better as a team, then focus on winning more."
Finch said Lettunich was always a good team player but really blossomed toward the end of his junior year.
That's when Lettunich dedicated himself on the practice field and took a leadership role in the program.
"He's a good kid," Finch said. "He became one of our tough guys. To win on the Western Slope, you need kids who will step up and be tough. I am so excited he is having a good go of it in Oregon. He worked real hard and will continue to."
Lettunich is back in Steamboat for the summer working out with former teammates. He'll head back to Portland for fall camp in August.