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)
Significant other(s) Julie Taylor (Fiancée/Wife (ambiguous))

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. His character is based on Mike Winchell from Friday Night Lights.

Characterization and background[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. His late father Henry was in the U.S. Army and his mother 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). In season 1, when Henry is first introduced, the difficult relationship between father is revealed and throughout the show, it is shown that Matt sees Coach Taylor as more of a father figure than Henry. Henry exhibited some symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder – Landry warns Matt that he [Henry] may be "all messed up from the war"[1] but the term is never explicitly mentioned in the show – leading him to become distant and uncaring to his family, which deeply hurt Matt. 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.

Matt is something of an "anti-jock" who "listens to Bob Dylan and draws pictures"[2] and generally out of place with his teammates, such as Smash Williams and Tim Riggins, who are often seen hanging around girls or at parties, or even his predecessor, the charismatic and popular Jason Street. He is more socially awkward and often looks uncomfortable with the attention he receives as the star quarterback and his closest friend is Landry Clarke, a "nerd". An introvert, Matt's shy nature sometimes comes across as a lack of self-confidence and, according to Smash, he was "so shy he had to e-mail his plays in".[3] Unlike most of his teammates, college football was not high on his priorities after high school and he once confided to his mother after being benched that he felt undeserving to be starting quarterback, given the circumstances leading to him becoming "QB1".[4]


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 honor student who doesn't play football. Matt spent much of his varsity career in the shadow of senior Jason Street but is thrown in the deep end when Jason suffers a career-ending spinal cord injury during the opening game of the season. Although he did well, his scrawny build did not inspire much confidence from the fans and the Panthers lose the very next game. Matt's name board is vandalized and he is routinely mocked by rival high school students. 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 and violent temper causes Coach Taylor to bench him and give the starting position back to Matt. Despite the upturn of events, Matt still struggled with feelings of inferiority and lack of confidence from time to time. In the episode ""Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes", he, Jason, Riggins and Smash hang out at the field and confesses that he is not confident of his chances in the upcoming state semifinals against the Brant Vikings, leading Jason to give him an impromptu coaching session right then and there. Jason is seen giving advice and encouraging him at the state semifinals against the Vikings, played in pouring rain and a muddy field.[5] 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. Matt's relationship with Coach never fully recovers.

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 she and Matt have sex. 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 Matt's 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.[4] 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 School of 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.


  1. ^ "Nevermind". Friday Night Lights. Season 1. Episode 11. January 3, 2007. NBC. 
  2. ^ "Eyes Wide Open". Friday Night Lights. Season 1. Episode 21. October 10, 2006. NBC. 
  3. ^ "Best Laid Plans". Friday Night Lights. Season 1. Episode 21. April 4, 2007. NBC. 
  4. ^ a b "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Friday Night Lights. Season 3. Episode 5. October 29, 2008. NBC. 
  5. ^ "Mud Bowl". Friday Night Lights. Season 1. Episode 20. March 28, 2007. NBC.