Matt Ferris of Xavier has been selected as the 2013-14 recipient of the Pat Richter Award presented by WisSports.net as the Triple Play Triple Threat Male Athlete of the Year.
The Triple Play Triple Threat of the Week is an honor given on WisSports.net to the top senior boys and girls three-sport athletes in the state and is sponsored by the local community telephone companies of Wisconsin. At the end of the school year, those awarded with the weekly honor are eligible for the Pat Richter Award, which will go out to the top boys and girls three-sport athlete of the season.
Hugh V. "Pat" Richter is one of Wisconsin's most storied student-athletes in state history. He was a three-sport athlete at Madison East High School, competing in football, basketball and baseball. He went on to fame at the University of Wisconsin, earning nine varsity letters in three sports and would later become the Athletic Director at Wisconsin.
Past winners of the award include Jester Weah of Madison Memorial (2012-13), Kyle Cody of McDonell Central (2011-12), Hank Kujak of Blair-Taylor (2010-11) and Donnie Hissa of Northwestern (2009-10).
There was no doubt Ferris was a very good athlete heading into his senior season at Xavier, but few could have predicted the incredible performance he'd put together on the football field last fall.
The Hawks missed the playoffs in 2012, but Ferris showed right out of the gates that they and he would be a force to be reckoned with. In the team's first four games, he threw for a total of 20 touchdowns...but that was just a warmup.
Against Ripon in Week 5, Ferris completed 24 of 35 passes for 420 yards and a new state-record of 8 touchdowns.
He'd finish the year with new state records for most passing yards (3,949) and touchdowns (50) in a single-season as well, helping the Hawks to a state semi-final appearance in Division 3.
For his exploits on the gridiron, he was named the WFCA Offensive Player of the Year and the Dave Krieg Award winner as top senior quarterback as part of the WisSports.net Senior Football Awards.
He made a very successful transition into the basketball season, averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game in helping Xavier to an outright Eastern Valley title and co-Player of the Year recognition in the league.
After earning Second Team All-Conference recognition on the baseball diamond as a junior, he was a Third Team all-league choice as a senior.
So, with great success in three sports, which is his favorite?
“Basketball," he said. "It has always been my favorite sport. I just always loved playing and watching the game while growing up and it’s still my favorite sport today.”
It comes as no surprise then, that despite record-setting numbers on the football field, he'll continue his college career on the hardwood, where he will be a preferred walk-on to the highly-successful Wisconsin Badgers basketball team. After a 4.00 GPA in high school and selection as one of 16 WIAA Scholar-Athletes, Ferris plans to study business or medicine.
As Ferris reflected back over his high school career recently, a few moments stood out in his mind in each sport.
"My favorite moment in basketball would have to be winning the conference championship my senior year," Ferris said. "We had 5 seniors on the team who had been playing together since we were in the third grade and to see all of our culminated hard work pay off was very rewarding."
While his individual numbers in football are what most people will remember, it was the team success that he values most.
"Favorite football moment was the playoff run we had. The landmark game against West De Pere was huge, since they had beaten us last year by about 40."
While the Hawks didn't have as much success on the baseball diamond as the other sports, it was still a special few months for Ferris.
"My favorite memory from baseball was the entire senior season. Our team this year was probably the closest team I've ever been on, regardless of the sport. We had a blast at practice and during games and I made a lot of close friendships throughout the season."
Participating in athletics at the high school level places incredible demands on the student-athletes, but it is an experience Ferris wouldn't change for anything.
"I've been asked this question many times, asking if I wished I would have specialized in a sport in hopes of getting a scholarship," he reflected. "And I always say that you're only young enough to play sports for so long. Each sports team is different and I've made new friendships that I wouldn't have otherwise made. I feel as though I would have missed out if I hadn't played three sports. I love the transition from football to basketball and then basketball to baseball.
"If I could go back, I would do it all again."
That's not to say there weren't moments of doubt.
"Going into high school, I was unsure that I’d play all three sports, so the best advice I got from a coach would be to stick with the sports and I’m certainly glad I did."
For high school sports fans in Wisconsin, we're certainly glad he did as well.
To view our initial profile of Matt as part of our Triple Play Triple Threat Athlete of the Week series, please click here.