Growing up, Matt Jacobson tended to keep to himself.
“I was always kind of introverted in school or during practice for bowling,” the La Salle-Peru senior said.
That started to change when he got to high school.
Jacobson joined the bowling team and found a group of people he felt comfortable around, and gradually he started to come out of his shell.
“It kind of came out over the years that it was not as bad as I thought it would be,” Jacobson said. “I thought people wouldn’t accept me for who I was. I tried to hide from people. Over the years, I realized people don’t mind me for who I am so I can let it out a little more without being judged.
“I’m comfortable being myself now. I’m not as afraid of being judged as I was in my earlier years.”
L-P bowling coach Jeff Miller describes Jacobson as “always positive” and “always in a good mood.”
Jacobson is passionate about trains, bowling and working on trucks. He helps people fix computers and plays video games.
He knows what he wants to do in the future as he plans to attend Universal Technical Institute to study diesel and automotive mechanics.
“He’s just an overall great kid,” Miller said. “He’s a good learner and good listener. He has a great head on his shoulders. He knows what he wants to do and where he wants to go. If there’s one thing I would say about him it’s he’s not afraid to be himself. He is who he is and he has no problem saying it. He has no problem putting himself out there.”
Jacobson has been interested in trains since he was very young. He remembers always watching trains while visiting his grandpa’s house in Ottawa.
“I’ve always been interested in how trains work and how they can pull massive loads,” Jacobson said.
His late grandpa — who owned Magic Muffler in Ottawa — also got him into fixing trucks.
Out of desperation to buy a vehicle he could afford, Jacobson bought himself an old Ford truck for his birthday last year and fixed it up.
He installed an intake, put in a custom-made exhaust, fixed about 90 percent of the rust on it, put new panels in, put in new headlights, visor, a new bed, wheels and tires and sanded down and painted the frame.
“I put about a good months worth of work into it in total,” Jacobson said. “I learned to fix problems and make changes to it.
“I did most of the work myself. My grandpa passed away in 2015, but I used some of his experience he gave me to help me stay motivated and keep working on it.”
Jacobson has used his experience on the lanes — he started bowling in youth leagues about 10 years ago as he followed in the footsteps of his dad, uncle and grandma — as well as his positive attitude to provide a steady presence for the Cavaliers.
“One thing you do as coach is try to keep them positive,” Miller said. “The potential these kids have is lights out. If they’re hitting on all cylinders, they can compete for state. With Matt, he’s always in a good mood. He’s a good listener. He’s always trying to take what we’re teaching him and keep pushing forward.”
Keeping a positive mentality is something Jacobson had to develop, and it’s something he tries to keep in all aspects of life.
“I haven’t always been like that,” Jacobson said. “It’s been acquired over the years. My first couple years (of high school bowling), I was like, ‘Whatever happens, happens. If we lose, we lose and if we win, we win.’ Now I’m like, ‘Hey, we’ll do good today, and if we don’t we’ll learn from our mistakes.’ I felt I was kind of bringing my team down and not really helping us. I figured if I could be a little more positive, we’ll get a little more motivation and maybe do a little better.‚
Along with his upbeat mentality, Jacobson also provides consistent scoring as he’s averaging around 190.
“I would say more than anything, he brings stability,” Miller said. “He’s a good kid to lean on. He’s not going to have any crazy low games and he doesn’t usually shoot lights out, but he’s a solid player. He’s always going to do what he does. He’s going to be that guy we can always lean on.”
After a slow start, Jacobson is averaging over 200 during the last month or so as the Interstate Eight Conference-leading Cavs are looking to finish strong with the conference meet Tuesday and the Joliet West Regional on Saturday.
“This year I’ve done pretty well,” Jacobson said. “With the guidance of coach Jeff, I’ve been a lot better than I was in previous years.
“I’ve improved on my spare shooting and overall concentration of where I’m supposed to be moving and where my target is and stuff like that.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him onTwitter @NT_SportsEditor.