At one time, Matt's relationship with both of his parents was strained. Henry was a member of the Armed Forces 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. In season 4, Matt's father dies after stepping on an IED.
When the series begins, Matt is the back-up quarterback. No one notices him on the field because Jason Street is the top high school quarterback in the nation. Along with his best friend Landry Clarke, he is a social outcast. That changes when Jason suffers a career-ending injury, forcing Matt into the starting quarterback position. Crushed by Jason's injury, the town and team pressure Coach Taylor to find a new quarterback, because no one (besides Coach) believes Matt can get the job done. As Matt continues to work his heart out and impress his teammates, a new quarterback, Ray "Voodoo" Tatum, joins the team and temporarily replaces Matt as the starter. However, Voodoo's inability to be a team player forces Coach Taylor to bench him and return the starting position to Matt. He 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, Saracen 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. At first it was a one-sided crush, as Julie had no intentions of ever dating a football player. But she slowly began to return the feelings. Coach Taylor isn't very pleased that they're dating and often interferes in their relationship. However, both Matt and Julie made it clear that they are going to stay together whether coach approves or not. Matt also develops a father-son bond with Coach Taylor and feels betrayed when Coach Taylor accepts a job at TMU. Matt tells Julie that even though she will no longer be living in Dillon, they will stay together.
Season 2 begins with Matt and Julie's (who has stayed in Dillon with her mom while Coach Taylor lives in Austin) relationship falling apart. Julie's feelings for her co-worker along with problems at home cause the two to break up. Julie tries to reconcile but Matt refuses and quickly begins dating the new cheerleader at school. Matt's friendship with Smash also begins falling apart. Matt believes that Smash does not care for the team now that he is a senior and only cares for 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 soon he welcomes her into their home. Matt develops feelings for Carlotta and breaks up with his cheerleader girlfriend so he can be with her. She denies him at first but gives in and sleeps with him. Their relationship does not last long, as Carlotta leaves the Saracen house to return to her family in Guatemala. A heartbroken Matt begs her to stay, but it's not enough.
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 of them 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 begins almost a year after the conclusion of Season 2. Matt's quarterback position is threatened when a new freshman quarterback, J.D. McCoy, moves to Dillon to play for the Panthers. While Matt is still playing well, J.D's skills along with town pressure force Coach Taylor to give J.D. the starting position permanently. Matt, furious over Coach Taylor's decision, threatens to quit before Coach talks him out of it. Matt agrees to stay on the team and sit on the bench but tells Coach that he'll hate it just as much as he does. After a few weeks on the bench, Matt suggests that Coach Taylor give him the wide receiver position, saying he'll be an asset since he already knows all the plays. Coach hesitates but gives him the position. Matt's final game as a Panther sees him return to the quarterback position in the second half of the State Championship game after a poor performance from J.D. The team is able to get back into the game after being shut out, but they lose in the end when the other team kicks a field goal.
During the season, Matt slowly begins reconnecting with his mother, who he sets out to find 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 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 reconnects with Julie, getting back together with her 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, Matt looks at different art schools, 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 knowing that she was the only person who stayed by his side all his life. And again will always be there.