Matt Maher calls himself That Guy
A native of Cape May County, New Jersey, Matt was That Guy who excelled both academically and athletically. Matt was active in his community, played basketball and soccer, and coached children in youth camps. He was That Guy who grew up in a picture-perfect family, with parents who always supported his goals. After graduating from Temple University on a full athletics scholarship, Matt signed with professional soccer team, Carolina FC, in 2007. Later on he signed with the Philadelphia Kixx in January 2009.
He was That Guy whose life was envied by many.
Unfortunately, Matt is now That Guy who killed a father of six in a drunk driving crash.
On March 1, 2009, a few months after joining the Philadelphia Kixx, Matt sustained a career-ending knee injury. A week later, feeling discouraged about his situation. Matt went out drinking with a friend. On his way home, Matt was speeding down the Atlantic City Expressway and crashed into the vehicle of Hort Kap, killing him instantly.
Matt didn’t receive the news he killed Kap until he was in police custody. As he sat in the holding cell, contemplating the consequences of a DUI charge, he overheard the dispatcher describing Kap as “deceased.” In an instant, Matt’s world came crashing down.
“I couldn’t comprehend the weight and I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach trying to understand the full magnitude of the word ‘deceased’– and that my actions caused it,” described Matt. “It was total mind confusion.”
As Matt was awaiting his sentencing, the Bible Club counselor at Middle Township High School approached Matt’s mother. He asked if Matt would be interested in speaking with students at the school.
“My mom left the decision up to me and I told her after much thought and prayer that I always stood up during all the good in my life; and that I should stand up now during the bad and take ownership of my bad decision,” says Matt.
Prior to sentencing, Matt partnered with the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance (SJTSA) and was able to make 34 “I’m That Guy” presentations to more than 7,000 students in high schools and colleges throughout South Jersey. His goal was to spare someone else from following in his footsteps, and the process was cathartic.
Matt was charged with aggravated manslaughter and sentenced to five years, five months in prison.
“I never thought I’d be in an ugly environment like prison, but instead of fighting my circumstances, I decided to accept them and become intentional in making the best of them,” explains Matt.
While in prison, Matt focused on positive activities and encouraged others to do the same. He started a Bible study group, tutored fellow inmates in English, and wrote 15 books. He also kept a daily blog to chronicle his life in prison.
Taking Advantage of Second Chances
Matt was released from prison on August 3, 2014. He quickly partnered with SJTSA again who, through the support of a State Farm grant, committed to hosting a series of presentations to high school and college students throughout New Jersey and neighboring states. Matt was the keynote speaker.
Matt’s first presentation since his release was to Cumberland County College, where students were gripped by Matt’s raw and honest story. He doesn’t sugar-coat his actions, feelings, or the crash, and humbly requests young people do not follow in his footsteps.
“The variety of ways the kids connect with Matt is powerful and continues to be evident through the following of his website and the blog he wrote from prison,” says SJTSA Program Manager Teresa Thomas.
In addition to sharing his message with thousands of students, Matt has other plans for his future. With the help of his mother, Matt created the Be Still Foundation. His foundation advocates responsible decision-making, the prevention of risky behavior, and provides strategies for overcoming adversity.