I'm excited about this season, but I know this: that help is on the way and it's about recruiting the right kids that fit Logan, Utah, that fit this culture and that want to be here. And we've got a lot of guys that want to be in Logan, Utah, right now, and to me, that's really, really important. —Matt Wells
LOGAN — When you walk into the office of Utah State University head football coach Matt Wells, one of the first things you'll notice is a large, hand-written letter, hanging in a prominent place on the wall.
The letter, surrounded by framed photos of former Aggie greats, along with posters, plaques and other football memorabilia, was composed by his daughters Jadyn and Ella, ages 14 and 11, respectively.
That letter is a very loving, sweet-yet-spunky message to their dad, encouraging him to keep working hard, striving to do his best, stay focused on the positive and ignore the doubters and detractors.
It's a very touching reminder that football is really all about family, with so many people's lives who are fully invested and intertwined in their quest for a common goal — success.
Wells has been a proud member of Utah State's football family for a decade now, first as a quarterback, then as an assistant coach and, for the last four years, as the Aggies' head coach.
He cares very deeply about the USU program, and he wants his players to be successful both on and off the field.
In his first three years at the helm, his teams won a total of 25 games and went to three consecutive bowl games. He's very proud of that, and deservedly so, and he also takes great pride in the fact that, over the last eight years, all but two of Utah State's football players have earned their college degrees.
And nobody feels worse about last year's struggles, when the Aggies sputtered through a disappointing 3-9 season, or is more determined to reverse those fortunes this year, than he does.
"We absolutely learned some things from last year that will help us this year," said Wells, now starting his fifth season at the Utah State helm, pointing out the importance of putting that 3-9 record in the rearview mirror as soon as possible and moving forward. "It's there; we can't ignore it, but we have absolutely moved on from it. I think that we have tried to take the lessons we've learned and the changes I've made and move on with them.
"It's important that we learn from it, address it, not hide from it, but now really move on. This is its own team.
"Last year's team, which a lot of us were a part of, didn't get it done," he said. "The years previously didn't win those games for us last year. Just like this year, when we win, last year's losses won't affect how we do this year. This is a whole new team."
And it's a team he's very excited about. A couple of strong recruiting campaigns have brought a bevy of promising players who are now sophomores, freshmen and redshirt freshmen into the program.
Mix and mingle those younger guys with the returnees from the last couple of years, and the potential is definitely there for a quick turnaround.
Wells is eager to see how that blended lineup translates into success on the field, and he momentarily had to stop himself and try to temper his exuberance about their prospects for this season and beyond.
"We still have a lot of work to do, and I really mean that — that's not coach-speak. We have a lot of work to do," Wells said. "But where I am very encouraged is the areas that we tried to upgrade our team in recruiting. I'm excited about the recruiting classes that have come in as advertised. ... We have to mix them with the veterans, and it's gotta be the right mix and chemistry to be a good season — I recognize that.
"We have upgraded our athleticism at linebacker, and it's not even close. We have to rebuild the D-line, we have to rebuild the O-line. Those two projects are still ongoing and probably, honestly, will be as we go through September before we get into Mountain West play.
"This team has an edge to it, and I'm excited to watch them play and compete," he said. "I think they're a team that will just continue to, hopefully, buckle their chin strap and come out and really, really compete.
"... They want to get back to what Utah State has been and what we want it to be, and that's a program that gets into the month of November and is right in the thick of competing for a conference championship. We've been that every year until last year, and they want that."
In Wells' time in Logan, the USU program has undergone a tremendous transformation, with great improvement as far as its product on the field and the steady growth and upgrading of its facilities off the field.
The game-day experience and atmosphere in and around the stadium itself, the press box and JumboTron scoreboard, as well as the program's first-class indoor training facility, weight rooms, locker rooms, coaches' offices, meeting rooms and many other facets of USU football are all far, far better now than they were five, 10 or 20 years ago.
It is a program that, after many years of struggles, finally got back on the right track again.
And now the Aggies need to make sure that last year's shoddy showing was the outlier, the exception rather than the rule. A lot of that could stem from their ability to win close games, something the Aggies didn't do in 2016.
"Football's interesting in that it's hard to predict before the season," Wells said. "We all like to talk about it, it's exciting, it's the best sport in America, it's the greatest team sport ever because there's so many intangibles that go past talent that have to do with a winning football season.
"And that's your chemistry, that's your leadership, that's avoiding major injuries, that's getting a little lucky, that's the mojo and the confidence that can come from getting a little lucky and maybe the other stuff combined. And then you kinda get on a roll.
"You've gotta find ways to win close games, and we didn't do that last year," he said. "We've done that the years that we've had special seasons, we've won those close games. You're not always gonna play an A-plus game, but if you are good enough to get it to the fourth quarter and then your leadership, your chemistry, some of the intangibles can take over, and you can find a way to win a close one.
"And then, more than likely, you're gonna have the confidence to go win the next close one. ... We have to learn the right way to finish those close games."
Wells said that one of many folks in the Aggie family who's also determined to turn things around this year is senior quarterback Kent Myers, whose past experience in so many big games should pay dividends this season.
"Kent didn't play last year like he wanted to play, and I think he has a great desire and motivation to go out as a winner as a senior," Wells said.
"I'm excited about this season, but I know this: that help is on the way and it's about recruiting the right kids that fit Logan, Utah, that fit this culture and that want to be here. And we've got a lot of guys that want to be in Logan, Utah, right now, and to me, that's really, really important."
Matt Wells is definitely one of those guys. After all, he's become an integral part of that tight-knit USU football family, in a community that truly loves the Aggies — and he wouldn't want it any other way.