Freshman “sword guy” opens up to the Villanovan



Sarah Harris

Moving into college is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Whether it is the first or the fourth time, it is always a time of high anxiety. Boxes are everywhere. Trash begins to pile up. The attempt at consolidating possessions to fit into a small shared dorm room. The decisions on what to bring and what to leave at home. The contemplation of whether to bring the 10-year-old stuffed animal or the secret security blanket of your youth. However, one freshman, Matthew Fagerstrom, had a different packing problem. The decision to bring his five-foot four inch plastic sword to college. 

Although Fagerstrom didn’t bring the sword to college immediately, by September he and the sword were well acclimated to their new home.  

“I had it before I came down [to Villanova], but I didn’t bring it on move in day,” Fagerstrom said. “A friend of mine came to visit me from home and he brought it with him when he came down.”

The first person to encounter the sword was Fagerstrom’s roommate, freshman Alex Vetter. 

“When I walked into the room I just saw a five foot sword lying on his bed and I didn’t really know how to react,” Vetter said. “He [later] came in and introduced to me to his friend and then introduced me to his sword.” 

Fagerstrom began to work with the sword outside after class and on the weekends in the space between Caughlin Hall and Katherine Hall. Almost immediately students began to notice. 

“A lot of people think it is pretty cool, but some people think it is odd,” Fagerstrom said. “Some [people] see that it doesn’t have metal blade and think it is a toy and it’s not.”

Although the sword doesn’t have a metal blade, it is a historical replica of a sword used in the Middle Ages. The sword is the historical weight and dimensions of one used in battle. However, Fagerstrom uses the sword for something more practical than battling—he uses it to work out.

“It is really good exercise,” Fagerstrom said. “I try to get out there for an hour and at the end of the day my shoulders are screaming and my elbows hurt. It’s nice.”

To the untrained eye, the movements may seem unorganized, but Fagerstrom has a routine he follows that was written by Diogo Gomes de Figueiredo in 1651. It is a routine filled with traditional sword movements from several hundred years ago. The traditionality of the movements is very important. 

“Everything I am doing is how they did it hundreds of years ago,” he said. “For me it’s not just a workout routine. It’s actions and movements as they were done years ago, so there is a historical aspect as well as a physical aspect of it.”

The historical aspect of the sword is what originally interested Fagerstrom in his passion. Most children were interested in things like sports and arts and crafts, but Fagerstrom was interested in medieval swords. From a young age he was intrigued by the Middle Ages and the craftsmanship of swordmaking and fighting. His intrigue grew into passion and a need to have one of his own. 

“For me it’s not just enough to say ‘Oh these are cool,’” Fagerstrom said. “I have to have one.”

The need to have his own sword led to Fagerstrom becoming a celebrity on campus named “Sword Guy.” After using the sword a few times outside, word began to spread on social media about the Sword Guy on South campus. Rumors began circulating about his “samurai sword” and his intentions for it. However the rumors didn’t stop Fagerstrom from practicing with it. 

“I don’t care [if people make up rumors] because I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it to better hone my own skills,” Fagerstrom said. 

The stories were so believable that Fagerstrom was approached on Oct. 5, the day of the threat, by public safety about his sword. 

“I was sleeping and all of the sudden I hear a loud bang on the door,” Vetter said. “I open the door, terrified of what was going on, and they asked if Matt was around.” 

Someone had reported the sword as a samurai sword to Public Safety. Fagerstrom had previously approved the sword with Public Safety and his Resident Assistant before bringing it to his dorm. 

“They heard I had a samurai sword and they were investigating to make sure I didn’t have an actual metal weapon,” Fagerstrom said. “I told them it was designed to be the safest possible sword for sparring and it is designed to bend on thrust,” Fagerstrom said. “I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a misunderstanding.” 

Even as the rumors continued, “Sword Guy” became very popular. So popular that one of the freshman presidential candidates, Hannah Webb, used a picture of them on her campaign poster with the caption, “Sword Guy approves.” Moreover, Fagerstrom became the subject of many posts on Yik Yak and Twitter. The persona of “Sword Guy” continued to grow. However as “Sword Guy” became more famous, the real Fagerstrom got lost in the shuffle. 

“People are just associating him with one thing, and they don’t take the time to interact with him or figure out what he is doing,” Vetter said. 

Although he is known for being “Sword Guy,” Fagerstrom is involved in other things. He has a passion for economics and politics and has started writing a book. 

“It is a fantasy novel with two countries at war,” he said. “It explores what the war does to the two people in charge [of the countries].”

The novel is inspired by the popular series “Game of Thrones” and is another way Fagerstrom can express his interest in the Middle Ages. 

Although the sword has made him famous on campus, the fame isn’t the reason he does it. 

“I’m not doing it to be a Yik Yak celebrity or to be noticed,” he said. “I do it because it makes me feel good when I’m done.”