Amir Matheney can still spout off the monologue that sent him to Broadway last spring.
“My fifth-grade teacher told me I was gonna make a good janitor,” he recited, standing on the sideline of Olympia High School’s practice field. “Say she can tell that by how good I erased the blackboards. Had me believing it.
“I come home and told mama Louise I wanted to be a janitor. She told me I could be anything I wanted.”
Matheney wants to be a lot of things:
He has an aptitude for acting — his rendition of that speech from August Wilson’s “King Hedley II” earned him a trip in May to New York City, where he competed on a national stage.
He started an African American alliance for students at his high school and is involved in a club that advocates for nonviolence and diversity. He has considered studying several fields in college — political science, criminal justice, journalism or business.
He’s a 6-foot-3, 295-pound nose guard on the Bears defensive line, and recently committed to play at Eastern Washington University. He said he wants to play for the New York Giants if he makes it to the NFL.
Olympia coach Bill Beattie has found a common thread in Matheney’s endeavors.
“He loves to talk.”
Matheney was born in Hawaii, and has lived there twice, with stops in North Carolina and Germany nestled between. When his father retired from the Army, his family settled in Olympia.
The necessity to continually make friends in new places made him a talker, he said, and has helped him develop as a leader.
“That’s what made me so outgoing … I’ve always been a goofy guy,” Matheney said.
Last spring, he worked on memorizing his monologue while lifting in the high school’s weight room.
“Everywhere he goes, it’s something natural for him,” said Dayne Shafer, a senior defensive back who has played with Matheney since middle school.
“He’s always playful like that, on and off the field.”
On the field, Matheney, who has played varsity since his sophomore season, has emerged as a leader.
“He brings emotion,” Beattie said. “He plays with a lot of passion. He’s obviously a big, huge kid up the middle that allows us to do a lot of stuff on defense.
“More importantly, his leadership, his style — he’s kind of goofy and funny, and you need that. You need that lightheartedness, but, when it’s time to play, he comes ready to go.”
Matheney was the top-ranked defensive lineman in 4A Narrows League voting last season. His size and strength up front contributed to an Olympia defense that allowed 625 yards rushing in 10 games.
“He’s progressed immensely throughout the years I’ve been with him,” said former Olympia linebacker Clay Markoff, who graduated in June.
“His technique has gotten a lot better. ... Other team’s lines would be preoccupied with him, and had to double-team him almost every time, which allowed me to do my job.”
Markoff holds the school record for tackles with 288. He had 103 as a senior — he credits Matheney for helping him reach that number.
“It’s not always super glamorous for Amir … but he does his job well, and it was nice to have him in front of me,” Markoff said.
Matheney’s voice will be important this season, as the Bears join the Class 4A South Puget Sound League. Shafer said Matheney has been amped up, and brought more intensity to practice.
“I have more team goals than individual goals,” Matheney said. “My team goal is to win the league since it’s a new league. We made our motto, ‘Make A First Impression Again.’ That’s our goal this year.”
Should be easy enough for Matheney. First impressions have never been a problem.
“He’s always been the same — loudest kid on the team,” Markoff said.
All games at 7 p.m. Home games at Ingersoll Stadium; road games on campus of opposing high school, unless otherwise noted.
Sept. 2: *Emerald Ridge at Olympia
Sept. 10: *Olympia at Rogers (Puyallup), at Sparks Stadium
Sept. 16: *Bellarmine Prep at Olympia
Sept. 23: *Olympia at Curtis
Sept. 30: *South Kitsap at Olympia
Oct. 7: *Olympia at Sumner
Oct. 14: *Graham-Kapowsin at Olympia
Oct. 21: *Olympia at Puyallup, at Sparks Stadium
Oct. 28: Stanwood at Olympia
*4A South Puget Sound League game