Yetur Gross-Matos’ life has been plagued with tragedy.
When he was just one-year-old, he and his father were on a boating trip at St. Leonard Creek in Calvert County, Maryland when suddenly Yetur fell off the boat. His father, Michael Gross, dove into the water to save him, but Gross drowned in the process.
Yetur has no memory of that day-- only pictures and old VHS tapes to remember his father by.
Then, nine years later, the unexpected happened…again. His big brother, Chelal, whom he shared bunk beds with, was struck by lightning and sent him tumbling to the ground at Lee Hill Park baseball field. He didn’t make it. Chelal was 12 years old.
Yetur called it the “most difficult circumstance” he’d ever faced in his life.
“I think it made a better man understanding just how fleeting life is and that it's not here forever,” Yetur told NFL.com. “You just have to go take advantage of every opportunity.”
After the first tragedy, Robert Matos married Yetur’s mother, Sakinah. Then, he mourned the loss of Chelal with his family through the second. Robert, who adopted Yetur and his siblings, felt responsible for Chelal’s death. He was coach of the Chelal’s Little League team.
Yetur also experienced crushing grief, feeling he was the cause of his biological father’s death. The two helped each other get through tragic times.https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt19PYzHGVV/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
After years of counseling under the weight of misplaced guilt, Yetur eventually gave football a shot. This week, he’s expected to be selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
In three years at Penn State, Yetur recorded 111 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 38 games. In 2018, he became the 11th Nittany Lions player to record 20 tackles for loss in a season. He finished his junior year with 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Yetur’s explosiveness and boasted wingspan make him on the top edge rushers in this year’s draft. That high ceiling could make him a solid selection for the Seahawks at 27th overall, and many mock drafts and experts have foreshadowed that selection.
Yetur’s path to the NFL has been paved with grief, there’s no denying it. What he has faced in 22 years is more than many of us have been dealt in a lifetime. But after dealing with two unspeakable tragedies, Yetur won’t let life’s cruel blows overtake his promising future in the NFL.
He has turned tragedy into triumph.
Yetur’s humble beginnings will always be something he holds close to his heart as he looks to honor his dad and brother in his quest to play professional football.
His message for them?
“I just want to tell my dad and brother just that I'm taking care of my mom -- so she's good -- and taking care of the rest of my siblings. My brother wouldn't believe how athletic I am now."