Matt Saracen

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Matt Saracen
Friday Night Lights character
Zach Gilford as Matthew Saracen
First appearance "Pilot"
Last appearance "Always"
Created by Peter Berg
Portrayed by Zach Gilford
Nickname(s) Matt, Matty, QB1, Seven, Cobra
Occupation Back-up Quarterback ("Pilot," Season 1)
Starting Quarterback (Seasons 1-3)
Wide Receiver (Season 3)
Alamo Freeze Assistant Manager (Seasons 1-3)
Panther Pizza Delivery Driver (Season 4)
Art Student (Season 4- )
Family Lorraine Saracen (Grandmother)
Henry Saracen (Father, deceased)
Shelby Garrett (Mother)
Julie Taylor (Fiancée/Wife(Unknown))

Matthew "Matt" Saracen is a fictional character in the NBC/DirecTV (The 101 Network) television drama series Friday Night Lights portrayed by the actor Zach Gilford. He was the former backup quarterback of the Dillon High School Panthers before being thrust into the starting spotlight after Jason Street suffered a career-ending injury.

Role in Friday Night Lights[edit]

Back up Quarterback for the Dillon Panthers ("Pilot"). Starting quarterback for the Dillion Panthers (Seasons 1-2). Wide Receiver for the Dillon Panthers (Season 3). Main Character (Seasons 1-3).


Matt is the son of Henry Saracen and Shelby Garrett, and lives alone with his grandmother, Lorraine Saracen. Matt takes care of Lorraine due to her old age and battle with dementia.

At one time, Matt's relationship with both of his parents was strained. Henry was a member of the U.S. Army who showed no signs of caring for his son's troubles, and Shelby left Matt when he was a child after divorcing Henry (the full extent of their relationship is unknown but it is implied that Henry may have been an abusive husband). During his senior year of high school, Matt slowly began reconnecting with his mother, who desperately wanted to be a part of her son's life again. The season after graduating Matt's father dies after stepping on an IED.

Season 1[edit]

When the series begins, Matt is the back-up quarterback and something of a social outcast. His best friend is Landry Clarke, an honors student who doesn't play football. Although the Panthers are hugely important to Dillon, nobody recognizes Matt as a varsity football player because his teammate, Jason Street, is the top high school quarterback in the nation. That changes in an instant when Jason suffers a career-ending injury, forcing Matt into the starting quarterback position. Crushed by Jason's injury, the town and particularly the team booster club force Coach Taylor to find a new quarterback because they don't believe that Matt can get the job done. As Matt continues to work his heart out and impress his teammates, a new quarterback who was displaced due to Hurricane Katrina, Ray "Voodoo" Tatum, joins the team and temporarily replaces Matt as the starter. However, Voodoo's inability to be a team player causes Coach Taylor to bench him and give the starting position back to Matt. Saracen finishes his sophomore season with a 60% completion percentage, 2,586 yards, 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a 121.3 quarterback rating. In the state championship game, he passes for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns in leading the Panthers to a 27-26 epic comeback victory over West Cambria High School.

Matt also begins a relationship with Coach Taylor's daughter, Julie. Beginning as a one sided crush because of Julie's stated intentions never to date a football player, the relationship blossoms when Julie recognizes that Matt is not a stereotypical jock. Coach Taylor isn't very pleased that they're dating and often interferes in their relationship. Matt also develops a father-son bond with Coach Taylor and feels betrayed when Coach Taylor accepts a job at TMU at the end of the season. Their relationship never fully recovers. Matt tells Julie that even though she will no longer be living in Dillon, they will stay together.

Season 2[edit]

Season 2 begins with Matt's relationship with Julie (who has stayed in Dillon with her mom while Coach Taylor lives in Austin) falling apart. Julie's problems at home, coupled with a crush on her older co-worker, cause her to break up with Matt. After some time, Julie attempts to reconcile. At first, Matt is receptive, but he eventually refuses, saying that he'd feel like a chump if he took her back after what happened. Matt begins dating the new cheerleader at school. Matt's friendship with Smash also begins falling apart. Matt believes that Smash, now a heavily-recruited senior, no longer cares about the team and cares only about himself and his college prospects. The two get into a fight after the first game of the season and continue fighting until Coach Taylor, back from his stint at TMU, benches them until they can get their act together. They quickly realize they're fighting for nothing and become friends again.

Problems at home force Matt to get an at-home nurse, named Carlotta, for his grandmother. At first, neither Matt nor his grandmother like Carlotta very much, but they soon begin to welcome her into their home. Matt develops feelings for Carlotta and breaks up with his girlfriend so that he can be with her. She rebuffs him at first but gives in, and Matt slips her the hot beef injection . Their relationship does not last long, as Carlotta leaves the Saracen house to return to her family in Guatemala.

Tired of everything he has gone through, Matt begins skipping school and practice so he can get drunk with Tim. A night at the strip club with Tim ends early when his grandmother has an accident at home and is taken to the hospital. Matt passes out waiting for his grandmother to be released which forces Coach Taylor to drive both home. A furious Coach throws Matt into a cold shower and berates him before Matt breaks down asking Coach what is wrong with him that everyone in his life leaves him for something better. Coach responds by telling Matt there is nothing wrong with him at all.

Season 3[edit]

Season 3 begins almost a year after the conclusion of Season 2. New freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy, who has just moved to Dillon, threatens Matt's position on the team. While Matt is still playing well, the new quarterback's skills along with public pressure force Coach Taylor to give J.D. the starting position. Matt, furious, threatens to quit before Coach talks him out of it. Matt agrees to stay on the team and sit on the bench, though he eventually convinces Coach to allow him to play wide receiver. Matt's final game as a Panther sees him return to the quarterback position in the second half of the state championship game after J.D.'s poor performance. After being held scoreless in the first half, the Panthers take the lead due to Matt's strong play, but they lose on the final possession when the other team kicks a field goal.

During the season, Matt slowly begins reconnecting with his mother, whom he sets out to find in order to become an emancipated minor and take care of his grandmother's medical issues. After learning about Matt's problems, his mother comes to Dillon hoping that Matt will allow her to help out at home even if he doesn't forgive her for leaving when he was a child. Matt also begins dating Julie again after a day at the lake. Coach Taylor once again is not too pleased, especially after catching Julie in bed with Matt.

Matt's college prospects also come into play. Knowing he won't be playing football anywhere after being benched as a senior, Matt looks at different art schools before deciding on the Art Institute of Chicago. Knowing he'll be away from home, he helps his grandmother move into an assisted living home. In the end, Matt changes his mind, unable to leave his grandmother, the only person who has stayed by his side all his life.

Season 4[edit]

Season 4 marks a transition period for Matt Saracen, and the departure of his character as the show shifts its focus to other characters. As the season begins, Matt is a pizza delivery driver. He begins to realize that his past in Dillon is holding him back, finally admitting this on a hunting trip with Tim Riggins. Upon hearing the news that his father had been killed in action in the war, a devastated Matt attempts to make sense of his life. After military compensation for his father's death (along with life insurance) is enough for his grandma to live comfortably, Matt abruptly leaves for Chicago in order to pursue art. He leaves Julie behind, devastated. Matt calls Julie to apologize for not telling her about his decision, but she refuses to accept his apology. Matt returns to Dillon for Thanksgiving, hoping to finally make amends. He tells Julie that if he didn't leave when he did, he would have never left. He still, however, wishes to be with her and has already bought her a plane ticket back to Chicago. Julie still cares for Matt and wants to go with him, but she declines, saying that upending her life to follow him to Chicago would prevent her from pursuing her own dreams. Matt recognizes that she is right, and the two amicably go their separate ways. Matt reconnects with his best friend by giving the ticket to Landry.

Season 5[edit]

Julie visits Matt in Chicago on her way back to college after an incident with her History TA. Even though Julie says she doesn't fit in Matt's life anymore, the two quickly resume their relationship. Before Julie leaves, Matt tells her that they will figure out a way to make things work. Matt surprises Julie and his grandmother by returning home for Christmas. He tells Julie that he wants to be with her forever and proposes. Despite worries from Coach Taylor and Tami, the two convince them that they are making the right choice. In the final moments of the series - which occur 8 months later - the two are shown living together in Chicago.