From Viking to SEAL: Matt Farinella

Berry linebacker aspires to one day serve his country as a Navy SEAL.

By Austin Post

As a captain for the Berry College Vikings football team, Matthew Farinella leads his team into battle week in and week out. 

His teammates describe him as “relentless”, “unstoppable” and “fearless.” These attributes, plus the skills and traits he has learned on the football field, Farinella hopes will lead him to a career as a Navy SEAL. 

A common topic that kept coming up in discussions with Farinella’s teammates was his work ethic. Teammate Jordan Brannen, said that Farinella sets the tone for Berry’s training regimen, and has since the program’s inception in 2013.

“He’s a freak, ”Brannen said.“ He is always the first one in the weight room and the last one out. His fire for football is amazing.”

I’ll see your workout and raise you . . .

Brannen said he remembers a morning during the offseason like most other mornings during the offseason. He woke up at 7 a.m. for a team weightlifting session. He walked into the weight room and saw Farinella in the corner drenched in sweat, as if the 5-foot-9 junior had completed the day’s workout, at 7 a.m.  

Farinella had done precisely that. Farinella arose at 5 a.m., before anyone else on the team to push his body to the limit. And he wasn’t done. According to Brannen, Farinella stayed to lift, again, this time with the team.

“I’m working while everyone else is sleeping,” Farinella told Brannen. “That gives me an edge.” 

On top of the rigorous schedule that football demands, Farinella carries an 18-hour course schedule and he serves as a resident assistant in Morton-Lemley Hall. After what most people would consider an exhausting day of workouts, school and work, Farinella can still be found pushing himself in the Cage swimming pool. Farinella ends his training each day with an hour-long SEAL swim training session.

On the gridiron, Farinella has led the Vikings in tackling for the last two seasons, and he holds the career mark for the stat with 212 tackles. And counting.

Before home games, you can see Farinella in front of his team in a tradition known as the “Viking Walk.” Even in high school, he served as team captain and won his coach’s leadership award. He also is a member of Emerging Leaders here at Berry.

Through football, Farinella has learned the impact that setting a solid example for his teammates to follow can have on a team, and his peers appreciate it.

Junior kicker Mitchell Blanchard said he looks to Farinella in big moments on the field.

“He’s definitely our ‘go-to’ man on defense,” said Blanchard, who took on the punting and kicking duties this season. “We know we can count on him to step up in crucial times in a game.”

When no one’s looking 

But that’s under the stadium lights. What about when the fans aren’t watching?

Plate pushes are a Berry football player’s nightmare. A punishment for athletes who break team rules, the “exercise” has players pushing a 45-pound weight across a gym floor back and forth five times in a race against the clock.

What is leadership? When his teammates have to do plate pushes, it’s Farinella sweating, pushing and gasping for air right along side of them, regardless of who is being punished, regardless of whether he’s being “punished” or not. 

Farinella said he attributes this passion for pushing himself and those around him to his coaches, who have collectively instilled in him an attitude of determination throughout childhood.

Roommate and teammate Terrell Blakesleay, a wide receiver for Berry, said being around Farinella makes him want to get better.

“He’s the only person that motivates me besides me,” said Blakesleay, a junior from Columbia, Tenn. “When I see him doing his thing, it makes me want to rise to another level.” 

Getting the best out of people is a trait that Farinella said he believes will carry over well to a career in the military. Seeing his peers succeed is something that he said motivates him to go to work every day.

Becoming a SEAL

Choosing to become a Navy SEAL was easy, he said. 

“SEALS are the best at what they do,” Farinella said. “I want to be the best, and do the best I can in everything. So, why not be a SEAL?”

He is talking to Navy recruiters, and he’s making sure that his body is in the best shape possible. He said he wants to set himself apart from other SEAL hopefuls. This means hours upon hours of hard work in the classroom and in the gym are still ahead. But if it weren’t for football, it’s unlikely he would have the self-motivation to achieve his goal of serving his country as a SEAL.

So expect some day to read about Farinella suiting up as a member of the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force, after he graduates Berry in the winter of 2016.

Photo essay by Luke Chandler, Viking Fusion Reporter

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Farinella begins most days at 7 a.m. with a workout. He and his teammate, Trevor Price, run sprints for 30 minutes to an hour up to three times a week as part of a conditioning regimen designed to keep him in shape for both football and his Navy SEAL training.
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His second workout of the day: lifting weights with teammate Dale Jackson. The strength training is part of the two to three hours he spends working out each day.
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Motor learning class is part of Farinella’s 18-hour course load.                                                                                                                                          
A two-hour desk shift as a part of his campus job as a resident assistant at Morton-Lemley Hall dormitory finishes a long day in the Berry Bubble.

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