Palermo Capitalizes on Second Chance as a Bison
Nov. 20, 2006
By Damien Williams, Bucknell Athletic Communications
Palermo attended Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., and was a two-sport athlete in football and wrestling. Palermo was part of one of the most successful high school football programs in Pittsburgh. But with success comes many rivalries, particularly the rivalry with neighboring Woodland Hills High School. Every year, this game produces one of the biggest crowds in the area with usual playoff implications involved.
"For as long as I was at Penn Hills, when we played Woodland Hills, it was the game that both teams looked forward too," says Palermo. "It didn't matter how both teams were doing or how good each team was. It was a respect for each other, but a dislike at the same time. We never had a great game against them when I was there, but it was definitely a game that everyone got up for."
Palermo was a three-year starter and letterwinner at Penn Hills. He started his sophomore season as a wide receiver and defensive back while also returning punts. Palermo was supposed to continue to play wide receiver and free safety his junior year, but a shoulder injury in camp ended his offensive career and he became strictly a defensive player. Palermo produced his best year as a senior. He moved over to strong safety after the first game. Palermo earned Section 4 All-Conference honors, while also making it to the WPIAL AAAA semifinal which was the furthest his team advanced during his high school career.
Even though he was a three-year letterman in football, the Pittsburgh native was an even better wrestler, collecting four varsity letters. Palermo began his wrestling career in first grade and continued the sport until he graduated from high school. He earned an all-section wrestling title in 2001 and was honored on the Tribune Review All-East Team.
"It was something I always enjoyed doing," replies Palermo about wrestling in high school. "Although it was a team sport, it was an individual sport as well. Your success depends on how hard you work and what you put into it. What it comes down to is that you are one-on-one with your opponent and if you make a mistake, you are responsible for everything that happens."
Following the conclusion of his senior wrestling campaign, the former Penn Hills safety began his college search. He wanted a good education, but he also wanted to play a sport, either football or wrestling. When the Pittsburgh, Pa., native arrived at Bucknell for a college visit, Palermo was sold on the fact that the university was a beautiful campus with the ability to walk everywhere. He had conversations with Cornell and other small schools back home for football, and was contacted by Penn for wrestling, but Palermo realized he wanted to play football and knew that Bucknell was the place for him.
"I looked at schools, some for football and some for wrestling," says Palermo on his college decisions." When I came on my visit to Bucknell, I saw the campus and I know what the academics were like and to me it held the complete package for me."
Before attending Bucknell in the fall, Palermo decided on an accounting major. However, once he got into the heavy course load at Bucknell, he wasn't sure if he wanted to stick with that major because of his lack of accounting experience in high school. Luckily he stuck through the hard times and will graduate with an accounting degree in May.
"I enjoyed working with numbers and math classes in high school," replies Palermo. "But I didn't want to deal with calculus classes either. However, I thought accounting would be a good fit for me in college."
In his freshman year, Palermo left the Bucknell football program. He began to having a hard time dealing with being away from home and was not able to deal with all the changes. Though he wasn't on the football team, he still spent most of his time with football players and started to realize that he needed come back and be part of the Bucknell football team.
"I let my mind talk me out of playing football," says Palermo on leaving the team. "I missed the competition and I missed football a lot. I am very thankful that Coach Landis afforded me the chance to come back that spring so I could get caught up."
When Palermo returned to the team as a sophomore, he began playing the linebacker position and appeared in eight varsity games, mostly as a special teams player. He posted five solo tackles during varsity competition, but the highlight of the year for him was recording eight tackles in his first junior varsity start against Milford Academy.
"I didn't play much my sophomore year," replies Palermo. "I knew I made a mistake for leaving the team. But now that I was back on the team, I fell like I was back and ready to play."
Palermo would take the momentum from his sophomore season and produce a strong spring season, which boosted his confidence for his junior campaign. As a junior he played in seven games, making five starts at outside linebacker. He finished with 32 solo tackles. Even though he suffered a foot injury and missed four games early in the season, Palermo lead the team in takeaways, tallying three interceptions and two fumbles for the Orange and Blue. The outside linebacker collected a career-high eight tackles against both Lafayette and Holy Cross.
"To start the first game of the season against Georgetown was big for me," remembers Palermo on his biggest moment so far in his college career. "I registered my first interception of the season on the second series of that game. Even though I got hurt it was still a great feeling."
In the 2006 season, a position change was in the mix for Palermo as he moved from his customary outside linebacker position to defensive back. He was an all-conference defensive back at Penn Hills, so he still knew the fundamentals and what it took to play the position.
"Matt has really stepped up for us this season," says fourth-year head coach Tim Landis. "He showed flashes of his potential as a junior. However, he missed several games due to a foot injury. He has also been really unselfish about moving from safety to defensive back for us. He is having an outstanding year both on defense and as a contributor on our special teams."
As a team, the Bucknell football squad improved on its 1-10 season from a year ago and posted a 6-5 record with a come-from-behind victory over Colgate in its season finale to give Palermo his second winning season. Palermo tallied 62 total tackles, with 33 being solo. He also collected two interceptions, forced two fumbles and broke up eight passes in his final campaign in Orange and Blue.
"It's great for us to have this success," says Palermo on the 2006 season. "I think the tone was set after the first game of the season. It feels good to win and we had some tough games this season. We are young but we don't want to use that as an excuse for the losses. We have the potential and we are starting to our confidence back."
After college, Palermo hopes to get a career in the accounting field.
"I am going to take my time and find out what is the best for me and not rush anything," replies Palermo about his job searching. "I have just started the interviewing process. I would like to go back to Pittsburgh but I am not going to limit myself."