This week will be one of culmination for the two teams that take up most of Matt Sichterman’s time.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, of course, wraps up spring ball with practices Monday and Wednesday before the Red-White Spring Game on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, capping 15 critical practices over the past five weeks.
On Thursday, a slightly lesser-known team, “Softie Startup,” will send two of its nine members to present their senior design project, an academic year in the making, to the rest of UNL’s software engineering community.
While most of the software engineering teams are presenting projects sponsored by outside companies or by other parts of the university, Sichterman’s “Softies” pitched something different to their faculty representatives: Essentially, they wanted to use the second year of this senior capstone-type project to create a simulated startup company.
“They had already hit all of the required objectives for senior design last year, so we let them self-sponsor,” Dr. Christopher Bohn, an assistant professor of practice in UNL’s engineering computer science department, told the Journal Star this week.
“It’s kind of low-risk because we’re all in college, not trying to support a family or anything, but this is something that we all potentially have entrepreneurial aspirations in the future,” Sichterman said. “So let’s see if we can come together and create our own group, sponsor our own project and build something from the ground up.”
It’s no longer a simulation, though. Four of the group members have registered an LLC — with some help on the legal front that Sichterman helped coordinate with on-campus resources — and they’re actually moving forward with “Grouve,” which Sichterman describes as, “Event-planning software that integrates music and playlists into the events to allow an attendee-curated playlist.”
Sichterman isn’t going forward with that foursome after graduation, mostly because he says he has a lot on his plate currently working part-time at Hudl, gearing up to start UNL’s online MBA program this fall and trying to win the starting right guard job for the Huskers.
Sichterman’s been mostly in the background on that front over his first four years on campus, but he’s taking starting reps on Greg Austin’s offensive line this spring and appears to be locked in a battle with Brant Banks for a starting spot.
“‘Sic’ is a kid that I’m very proud of as it relates to his tenure being here,” Austin said last week. “Up until now, he’s been a backup, quality backup, and I didn’t know what he was going to be coming into spring. And when I say I didn’t know what he was going to be, I knew that we were going to give him a shot. He’s taking full advantage of it and he’s done a really good job. He’s been consistent, he’s been a leader, he’s been a vocal leader.”
Sichterman, a Cincinnati native, has played on special teams and as a reserve over the past three seasons after redshirting in 2017. He was originally recruited by Mike Riley’s staff and former offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, but said he stuck it out with Nebraska and Austin in part because of the relationships he’d built and in part because of the unique opportunity UNL’s software engineering program presents. It’s a newer curriculum that began in 2017 and Sichterman’s cohort will become the second to matriculate all the way through next month.
“It’s been a really cool learning experience and I’m eager for our group to be able to show off what we’ve been working on,” he said of this week’s presentations. “We spend the first semester getting a lot of the business discovery and analyzing our ideas, so we haven’t really had a ton of time to develop this second semester, so things have really gone by quickly.”
That means long days for a person who splits his days between being an offensive lineman and an engineer.
“When I wake up at 6 a.m., I go to football practice, grab lunch after or hit the cold tubs or whatever — then I work usually from 1-4, then head back to the facilities for treatment or whatever I need and film,” Sichterman said. “Then I’m back looking at my schoolwork by 6:30 or 7 p.m. That’s what I’ve been running on this spring.”
He says this is the easy part, since his academic workload has decreased a bit as he nears graduation. Still, Dr. Bohn is impressed.
“I am amazed that he pulled it off,” the professor said. “It just speaks to how well organized he is that he can do that.”
It hasn’t always been that way. Sichterman said earlier in his college career he didn’t have such a clean handle on moving from one thing to the next all day, every day.
“In our field it’s called context switching. It’s definitely a learned skill,” he said. “I remember just being a younger football player and staying up until 1 a.m. with a 7 a.m. workout, those lines start to bleed and you’re taking away from football by doing school and taking away from school by doing football.
“But I’ve definitely learned how to manage that a lot better. Be where your feet are. That’s something I’ve adopted the past two years. No matter what happens with football, I’ve got to put my head down and work at school and no matter what’s happening with school, I’ve got to get to bed at a decent time so I can perform at football.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Sichterman has an idea of how he’d like the coming months and beyond to look, at least generally speaking. Win the starting right guard job for the football team and play well. Gain valuable business experience in the MBA program to pair with his large base of engineering and programming knowledge and experience.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer for me and I might as well use my time wisely while I’m here and get immersed in that MBA program so that no matter what happens in the future, I can have the opportunity to finish it. Definitely my hopes are to become an engineering manager of some kind down the road and then hopefully start my own business somewhere down the road.”
Talk to Sichterman while he’s wearing shoulder pads after practice, and you’ll hear about him learning to be a “technician” on the field, his will to become the voice of the offensive line room and about how he’s a teacher to the younger players. Talk to him on the phone in the midst of another busy day, and you’ll hear about the indie hacker world, “bootstrapping companies,” and how one of his sisters is a swimmer at Tennessee and another is working for a startup in Madison, Wisconsin. Sound familiar?
The worlds seem like they’d reside at opposite ends of the college experience spectrum, but consider the hands-on nature of both, the challenge of both and the way in which each discipline will test you in multiple ways, and maybe it actually makes sense.
“I like to build stuff, so that’s what drew me to software,” he said last week as fellow offensive lineman Broc Bando sidled up next to him, put his arm around him and said, “Genius. Genius right here.”
Sichterman laughed off that designation, but not this one: He’s a builder.
There’s undoubtedly a lot more of that to come in the future for Matt Sichterman, but his two current projects are starting to take form quite nicely this spring.
A look at the 2021 Nebraska football schedule
Week 0 ➡️ Illinois
Last time the Huskers and Illini played: Illinois 41, Nebraska 23 (2020)
All-time series: Nebraska leads, 11-4
Week 2 ➡️ Buffalo
Buffalo in 2020: 6-1 (5-0 in MAC)
Last time the Huskers and Bulls met: No previous matchups
Week 3 ➡️ at Oklahoma
Oklahoma in 2020: 9-2 (6-2 Big 12)
Last time Huskers and Sooners played: Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 20 (Dec. 5, 2010, Big 12 Championship)
All-time series: Oklahoma, 45-38-3
Week 4 ➡️ Michigan State
Where: East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State in 2020: 2-5
The last time the Huskers and Spartans played: Nebraska 9, Michigan State 6 (Nov. 17, 2018)
All-time series: Nebraska leads, 9-2
Week 5 ➡️ Northwestern
Northwestern in 2020: 7-2, Big Ten runner-up
The last time the Huskers and Wildcats met: Northwestern 21, Nebraska 13 (Nov. 7, 2020)
All-time series: Nebraska leads, 8-6
Week 6 ➡️ vs. Michigan
The last time the Huskers and Wolverines played: Michigan 56, Nebraska 10 (Sept. 22, 2018)
All-time series: Michigan leads, 5-4
Week 7 ➡️ at Minnesota
The last time the Huskers and Gophers played: Minnesota 24, Nebraska 17 (Dec. 12, 2020)
All-time series: Minnesota, 34-25-2
Week 9 ➡️ Purdue
The last time the Huskers and Boilermakers met: Nebraska 37, Purdue 27 (Dec. 5, 2020)
All-time series: Nebraska leads, 5-4
Week 10 ➡️ Ohio State
Ohio State in 2020: 7-1 (national runner-up)
The last time the Huskers and Buckeyes met: Ohio State 52, Nebraska 17 (Oct. 24, 2020)
All-time series: Ohio State leads, 8-1
Week 11 ➡️ Southeastern Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana in 2020: 2-2 (split-schedule concludes in April)
The last time the Huskers and Lions met: No previous matchups
Week 12 ➡️ at Wisconsin
Where: Madison, Wisconsin
The last time the Huskers and Badgers met: Wisconsin 37, Nebraska 21 (Nov. 16, 2019)
All-time series: Wisconsin leads, 10-4
Week 13 ➡️ Iowa
The last time the Huskers and Hawkeyes met: Iowa 26, Nebraska 20 (Nov. 27, 2020)
All-time series: Nebraska leads, 29-19-3
Contact the writer at [email protected] or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.