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Mathews unplugged: New Bolt revealed

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, May 3, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Despite success at every level, Chargers’ new running back needed a couple of pushes along the way to become a first-round draft pick

    By Kevin Acee, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Sunday, May 2, 2010

    FRESNO— At various points on the figurative and literal road between Bakersfield and Fresno and on to San Diego, Ryan Mathews could have veered into the ditch where potential withers up and dies, its promise mourned for a time but then forgotten.

    It seems so unfathomable now that his talent might have never been YouTubed or stolen the breath of so many, that A.J. Smith would not have been another in a long line of those who have fallen in love with him.

    But consider that for various reasons, not the least of which being the wholly teenager ability to blend rebellion and apathy, there was a period when Mathews wasn’t enjoying football and wanted to quit.

    He was 18 years old and essentially on his own as his mom worked and stayed in another town. He would be up late then sleep through his morning classes at Bakersfield’s West High. By the time anyone noticed his grade-point average was no longer at 3.0, he had three failing marks.

    At one point, Mathews told the adults who intervened that he might just end up going to work on the power lines, make a living and ride his beloved dirt bikes on weekends.

    And there it might have ended, for all intents and purposes.

    Not that working the power lines is anything less than noble, but more than a few folks would have lamented what became of that oh-so-talented Mathews kid.

    Children certainly would never have been trick or treating on the Bakersfield streets dressed as him.

    But the fact that Mathews didn’t slip into that ditch — and the myriad reasons for that — is why the Chargers made the bold move of tabbing the Fresno State running back to fill a departed legend’s backfield footprint.

    For the right to draft Mathews, the Chargers moved up 16 spots in the first round of last month’s NFL draft, giving up their coveted second-round pick and linebacker Tim Dobbins and ensuring they’d be paying an extra $8 million or so.

    And amongst the vast dustiness that is California’s Central Valley lie the answers to the question of why the Chargers think this is the young man who can handle the pressure of not only succeeding an icon but proving he was worth the price.

    “Some stuff in a guy’s makeup is an indication of what they’re going to become,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said.

    It is with a shrug, almost detached, that Mathews explains so many things about himself. He has, after all, been him his whole life.

    But he knows where he came from made him who he is and will help him as he works toward what he hopes to be.

    “I think if I came from a different background — if I had a dad around, if we had money, if I had things handed to me — I think I would be different than I am,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have worked as hard when I had to.”

    By now, most who have heard of Mathews have heard that he and his teenage mom were homeless for a time while he was an infant and that over the years the two formed an imperishable bond as Tricia Mathews worked multiple jobs and the two of them worked on just getting by.

    People’s faces actually brighten when they talk about Tricia Mathews.

    “She loves him more than anything,” said Richard Cornford, Mathews’ head coach at West High.

    “An amazing woman,” said Deb Keller-Mitchell, the West High athletic director.

    Certainly, the woman who never took welfare or sought child support, who worked up to three jobs at a time and even barrel raced for fun, instilled a certain determination in Ryan.

    However, at some point it is within the constitution of a teenage boy at a crossroads that a decision is made.

    Tricia Mathews recalls a son who was never in real trouble. That point where he was disinterested in football and school, she says, was their “one argument.”

    She called in his high school coaches. And she got a timely assist from Fresno State head coach Pat Hill.

    The first time Hill met Mathews, at West High during Mathews’ junior ar, the salty coach with the Fu Manchu mustache took his eyes off the boy’s transcript, bore them into Mathews and said, “Son, am I (expletive) wasting my time?”

    Hill then spent two hours meeting with Mathews and the West High counselors, outlining what Mathews needed to do to get college eligible.

    After that, sure, West High assistant coach Mike Lewis had to stop by Mathews’ apartment more than one morning to say, “Get up.”

    But it was Mathews — who had failed seventh grade on his first try and acknowledges “I’ve never been a school person” — who took the eight classes a semester his senior year, including one at night. It was Mathews who aced the ACT. And it was Mathews who, after the NCAA came back and said it wasn’t counting one of the courses he’d completed, took another class in the summer between high school and college.

    “For some reason,” he recalled, “I said, ‘I’ll just try. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to play football.’ As long as I have a chance, I might as well try.”

    Another way to put it is that Mathews was not going to fail — more those around him than himself.

    “He’s very much a people pleaser,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t like to disappoint.”
    Mathews does not dispute that notion.

    “I think that’s a good word,” he said. “I like to please, especially my coaches and people close to me.”

    Maybe it was the meals Mathews bought him and the other Bulldogs offensive linemen. Maybe it was the text from the NFL Scouting Combine that said, “I’m here because of you.”

    It was probably both those things and the fact that Mathews seemed to genuinely like hanging out with the big men in the locker room that prompted Fresno State center Joe Bernardi to passionately declare, “Marcus McNeill, Nick Hardwick, they’ll fall in love with him, I promise you.”

    Mathews is consistently described as truly appreciative of those around him and unfailingly loyal.

    He remained loyal to Hill.

    Assistant coaches from other colleges that came through Bakersfield would see Mathews’ transcripts and bail without even talking to him. But Tim Skipper, Fresno State’s running backs coach at the time, regularly monitored Mathews’ progress and was continually impressed.

    “This kid has got something to him, to actually be doing the work,” Skipper recalled thinking. “… Way more kids don’t make (the improvement) than do.”

    After a senior year in which Mathews led the nation with 3,396 yards and 44 touchdowns in 12 games and got eligible, USC and other big schools returned to Bakersfield.

    “Coach Hill stayed loyal to me,” Mathews explained in his decision to remain committed to Fresno State.

    Three years later, following a junior season in which he led the nation with his average of 150.7 yards a game, it was Hill who convinced Mathews to leave for the NFL.
    And ultimately, it may have been Hill that tipped the scales toward the Chargers being willing to pay the humongous price for Mathews.

    Hill worked on Bill Belichick’s Cleveland staff and also coached with the Baltimore Ravens. Like many in the NFL, Smith respects Hill and trusts him implicitly.

    Smith spent almost an hour in Hill’s office one March day, and the coach showed him a file on Mathews as he talked the kid up.

    Hill has angered players in the past when they have perceived he hasn’t sold them hard enough to NFL people. He’s not going to say a guy can play if he can’t play. He’s not going to badmouth a kid, but neither is he going to damage his own reputation by overselling a kid.

    “I don’t mind falling on the sword for Ryan Mathews,” Hill said. “Ryan Mathews is the real deal.”

    Inside the file Hill showed Smith are three pictures of Mathews, dressed only in shorts — one taken before his freshman season, another taken before his sophomore season and a third taken before his junior season.

    For dramatic effect, Hill covers the other two pictures as he shows a visitor Mathews’ freshman picture. Not in bad shape, Mathews is a little scrawny with some remnants of baby fat. After a few moments, Hill uncovers the picture taken before the next season. The baby fat is gone and Mathews is a little bigger and more cut.

    Then Hill reveals the final picture, taken less than a year ago, before Mathews’ junior season. If anyone has seen the three pictures in this manner and not gasped at the final one, they don’t have much appreciation for the human body and the work it takes to make one look perfect.

    Still, the story that final picture tells is not enough in itself.

    However, also in the file that Smith saw is an essay in Mathews’ handwriting, penned a few months after his freshman season. In red ink that flows unevenly across the pages, Mathews explains that he knows he has to make better decisions and work harder, that he is the only one standing in the way of his own greatness.

    This came after a season in which Mathews led all freshmen in rushing touchdowns and average but was admonished by Hill in a postseason “Come-to-Jesus” meeting that he needed to do more.

    “Don’t talk about being the best when I see Taco Bell wrappers on the floor and I can tell by looking at you you’re not getting eight hours of sleep, and I watch you in the weight room and you’re just getting by,” Hill told him.

    It was Mathews’ response over the next two years — changing his eating and workout habits — that prompted Hill’s endorsement to Smith and anyone else who asked.

    “This kid took it to the next level,” Hill said. “A lot of kids talk about wanting to be the best … I could see he could have a big-time future, but a lot of kids have that.

    Which ones maximize that?

    “You can do that with every kid, but not everyone takes it to heart. Now, when you get a special one ... ”

    In the great ones, the refusal to fail is usually as strong as the desire to succeed.

    The Chargers’ decision makers have compared Mathews’ competitiveness to that of Philip Rivers — the highest of compliments considering they have entrusted so much of their championship hopes to their quarterback.

    “He’s very humble, but he wants to be the best,” Hill said. “He’s got the self-motivation, and you don’t get that overnight.”

    Video - http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/may/02/mathews-unplugged/
  2. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    **** is it august yet?
  3. clontarf_bolt

    clontarf_bolt Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2008
    let's see Rivers and Mathews jawing with donkies fans next season so! :icon_tease:
  4. Lightning_Dynasty

    Lightning_Dynasty Well-Known Member

    Jan 15, 2010
    My love for Matthews just continues to grow. Can we fast forward 3 months please?
  5. sdbound

    sdbound Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2006
  6. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

    Sep 9, 2006
    If this guy is as good as I think he is going to be this offense will be damn near close to unstoppable. Injuries or holdouts would be the only thing that will be stopping these boys on O this year.

    I think an awesome display is coming up. What a perfect storm of issues to create some serious point scoring potential this year.

    Hungry wideouts looking for contracts.
    A pissed off QB who has only playoff wins on his mind.
    A stud rookie RB who wants to make people forget LT.
    The best 3rd down back in the league pulling in a cool 7m.
    The best TE in football for yet another year.
    A maturing line that knows how to take of business.

    God it is going to be great having 3rd and 4 and 3rd and 3's again.

    I predict we will set a new team record for 4th down attempts this year.
  7. RM24

    RM24 BoltTalker

    Jul 27, 2007
    Nicely said! :tup:
  8. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    I'm thinking about the red zone. Valid play action threat, good receiver out of the back field-then, of course, there are receivers who have to duck under the goal post. One thought-VJ looking at a suspension. Buster's last chance.
  9. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Defense wins.
  10. Ride The Lightning

    Ride The Lightning Join the Dark Side, we have cookies.

    Aug 15, 2006
    Great post , but you forgot to add to your list

    Pissed off linemen who got thrown under the bus by our former RB

  11. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Oh my, they'll be doing their best to open anything for Mathews just to show LT that it was him not them
  12. PowerBlue-Strike

    PowerBlue-Strike BoltTalker

    May 3, 2010
    We all knew the O would be good. The front office would address the need at RB. And even with VJ suspension, we still got one of the best passing games in the league.

    I excited to see our defense turn it around. Rivera took over in 2008 and helped with that wonderful 4 games winning stretch at the end (hahaha denver). This last year, he had to deal with ridiculous injuries starting after week 1. Of course, you can't prevent injuries so thats always a risk, but man, give him one good year and we can be a top ten defense again.

    On a more related note, i hated moving up and giving up so much for the Matthews pick when it happened. but now, I wouldn't mind giving another low pick for this guy. Pumped to be a blot fan
  13. reddenedbeard

    reddenedbeard Well-Known Member

    Aug 2, 2006
    I really want football to start now ..

    Having said that, we need to keep this kid away from the motor bikes in the offseason.
  14. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

    Sep 9, 2006
    Good point.

    And none of them are coming off a rehabing any injuries so should be pretty healthy overall.
  15. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

    Sep 9, 2006
    Generally true but less in the last decade than before. Rule changes just are too offensive friendly.

    Saints 25th in yardage surrendered. Colts 18th.

    Saints 1st in offensive yards, Colts 7th.

    Saints had a ton of picks last year and without those they probably would have ended up close to dead last in defense. Look for them to fall far from the perch this year and not even sniff a repeat.


    Oct 4, 2009
    Agreed:icon_shrug: ITs RIvers's year to shine:abq1::abq1::abq1:

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