Wearing a dark charcoal suit, pale blue tie and a wide smile, Matt Sewall is pictured among a small group of similarly attired professionals who comprise the Sewall Financial Team. Standing at the forefront is the leader of the group, Sewall’s older brother and mentor, Bobby, president of the wealth management firm Sewall Financial Group based in New York City.
But the team that Matt truly yearns to be a part of requires a helmet and shoulder pads rather than a suit and tie; an NFL team.
The road to becoming a professional football player has not been an easy one for the 5’10”, 183 pound, undersized, unsigned receiver out of Bryant University. There have been many obstacles and roadblocks including a torn Achilles and the unprecedented Coronavirus. Still, the Portsmouth native remains focused on his goal. His persistence and perseverance are beginning to pay off.
The call from the Cardinals came last Wednesday during Sewall’s daily workout at his alma mater Portsmouth High.
“Obviously I was excited,” said Sewall. “But I just felt ready to do what I had to do.”
An hour later his bag was packed and he was at the airport heading halfway across the country.
The Cardinals didn’t sign any of the handful of players who took part in the workout. Still, Sewall remains positive.
“This is the life of an NFL free agent,” said Sewall. “Stay ready, get the call, fly out, do your best and repeat until someone takes a chance on you.”
Sewall is confident he will get that chance.
The former two-time All-Stater and RI Gatorade Player of the Year has been pursuing a professional football career since graduating from Bryant two years ago. He had a solid career at Bryant. As a senior, the All-NEC selection finished his collegiate career with 100 receptions for 1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns.
What he lacks in size he makes up for with his speed, quickness, work ethnic – and his heart. His skills caught the attention of several NFL teams and he was invited to work out for the Houston Texans and NY Jets.
While he has yet to sign with an NFL team, his first stint as a professional came just over a year ago when he inked a deal with the Orlando Apollos in the now defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF). He tore his Achilles at the end of training camp.
The 24 year-old Sewall insists that his injury is a thing of the past, that he is 100 percent healed and in the best shape of his life.
He was set to prove that he was at his best this past spring. In March, he was about to sign with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
“I was coming off rehab and was ready to go. Tip top shape,” said Sewall.
Two days before he was slated to sign with Calgary, the Coronavirus pandemic hit, shut down the county and any plans Sewall had for playing in the CFL this year.
Sewall immediately went back to work. He started working out with former URI and St. Raphael standout Stanley Dunbar, who is training college players and professional hopefuls.
“One door closes, another opens. When Covid shut the CFL down I started doing one-on-one with Stanley and working out with all the guys he got together who are in similar situations that I’m in,” said Sewall. “That opened the door with the NFL.”
He shared his videos from Dunbar’s one-on-one sessions with his agent, who subsequently sent his highlights out to several NFL teams. The Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals showed interest right away.
Last Wednesday, he got the call he was waiting for. The Cardinals invited him to participate in a workout. He headed cross country, quarantined for two days, and subsequently had less than a half hour to show the Cardinals he belongs in the NFL.
Sewall was pleased with his efforts.
“It was a good, solid workout,” said Sewall. “I felt really good. My running was fast and smooth. I caught everything.”
Various Cardinals sites indicated his pros ( quick, elusive, good hands, reverse and punt return abilities) and his cons (lack of burner speed and size, coming off Achilles tear).
Although the Cardinals didn’t sign any of the players who worked out for the team Saturday, Sewall wasn’t surprised – or discouraged.
“Sometimes that’s how it goes. Sometimes they just want to see how you look, if you’re healthy and see how you are for future reference,” said Sewall. “I did what I had to do. I’m in the best shape of my life, running the best routes of my life. Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. I’m just happy to get in front of them.”
On Monday, he went right back to work and will do so until his dream of becoming a professional football player becomes a reality.
“That’s what a free agent does,” he said. “You just have to stay ready. My whole life is physical and mental fitness right now. I want to be in the best shape and have the best mindset for when these calls come in.”
With the Coronavirus still impacting the country, what the future holds for the 2020 NFL season remains uncertain.
“We are in uncharted territory in 2020. No one really knows what is going to happen. I’m just training as hard as I can every day and hope that they get another call in the near future, and hope that when the NFL is able to hold tryouts I get a call. Hopefully when things clear up in 2021 I’ll be playing in the CFL or NFL. The goal is the NFL. The fact I got a call makes me optimistic.”
So while he is happy to lend marketing support to his brother’s wealth management firm in between workouts, the younger Sewall has no plans to wear a charcoal suit and blue tie again anytime soon.
“I had scouts in March say you’re gonna be an NFL player. You go to these workouts and guys say ‘you belong in this league. Don’t let someone tell you you can’t play in the NFL because you definitely can.’ Until someone sees me work out and says you don’t belong in the NFL, I am going to continue to work out until I play professionally.”