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All You Need to Know About Ryan Mathews

Posted Jul 13, 2014

Get ready for the 2014 season by learning all about Ryan Mathews.

Over the past couple weeks, we've highlighted a few notable Chargers with their 2014 Media Guide profile.  Up next is running back Ryan Mathews.

Ryan Mathews was the Chargers’ Offensive Player of the Year and an All-AFC pick by the Professional Football Writers of America in 2013. The Chargers’ first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft made his NFL Playoffs debut in 2013 on the heels of a season that saw him set career highs in carries (285) and yards (1,255). His yardage total ranks eighth in franchise history and was seventh in the NFL in 2013. It was also the most yards by a Chargers running back since LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 1,474 in 2007. For Mathews, it marked his second 1,000-yard season.

Mathews rushed for an NFL-leading 534 yards during the month of December. He closed the regular season with a career-high 144 yards on 24 carries (6.0 avg.) against Kansas City in a win that vaulted the Chargers into the NFL playoffs. It capped a stretch in which he topped 100 yards in three of the Bolts’ last four games, giving him six such games for the season, second-most in the NFL. The only game during that stretch in which he didn’t reach the century mark was a 99-yard effort in Week 16 against Oakland. Over the final four games of the regular season, Mathews toted the rock 107 times for 473 yards and three scores and he had a run of at least 20 yards in each of the Bolts’ last three games, including carries of 44 (second-longest of the season) and 20 yards in that Dec. 29 win over the Chiefs. Part of the December stretch included a pair of games played five days apart (New York Giants and Denver) where Mathews carried 58 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

And had teammate Philip Rivers not won NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors, Mathews would have been a viable candidate as he assembled his outstanding 2013 season just a year removed from a 707-yard, one-touchdown season in which he was limited to just 12 games by two broken collarbones. Mathews continually heaped praise upon his offensive linemen throughout the 2013 season and late in the year, he rewarded each of his blockers with a new Gucci watch.

Mathews played in all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2013 and he did a tremendous job securing the football as he lost just one fumble in 311 touches. He also rediscovered his nose for the end zone, hitting paydirt seven times, tying his career high.

Mathews enters 2014 with 3,731 career rushing yards, fifth on the team’s all-time list, and he’s within striking distance of the team’s second, third and fourth leading rushers. He needs just 155 yards to overtake Natrone Means, 567 to overtake Marion Butts and 1,242 to move past Paul Lowe.

Not content with the results of his work in 2013, Mathews decided to take extra steps to improve his speed and stamina heading into 2014. Besides participating fully in the team’s offseason conditioning program, Mathews and wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu spent part of their offseason training in San Diego with retired NFL wide receiver Darran Hall. Part of their training included spending time training on the sand at area beaches and along the tall staircases that adorn the San Diego Convention Center downtown.Working hard to be the best is a mantra that’s followed Mathews for pretty much his entire life. He was raised by a single mother, Tricia, who gave birth when she was just 16. As her own mother battled a drug addiction, Tricia turned to relatives for shelter and a place to raise Ryan. At a point when she ran out of options, Tricia settled on the backseat of a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Their story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. After several months of living in the car, bathing and washing Ryan’s clothes at a public park and feeding him from a Riverside, Calif. soup kitchen, Tricia found a stable home with her grandmother, Glenna, in nearby Tehachapi.

With a roof over her head, Tricia found work while her grandmother looked after young Ryan. Tricia worked up to three jobs a day to save money and support her son. After years of saving and living with Ryan’s grandmother, Tricia had saved enough money to move them to Bakersfield, where Ryan enrolled at West High School. Tricia landed a well-paying job, but one of the drawbacks was that it included extensive travel. At the time, the Mathews household had grown by one as Ryan’s best friend, Dante, had moved in with them to escape a home rife with drug use. With Tricia away working, Ryan and Dante often had the apartment to themselves and as a result, Ryan’s academics began a steady slide.

Mathews reached a crossroads following a 235-yard, six-touchdown performance in the league championship game of his junior year. His grades had dropped to a D-average and he was on the verge of being ruled ineligible for his senior year. Mathews was challenged by both his mother and Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hill, who had been actively recruiting the young back. Ultimately, his mother’s plea carried the most weight as she reminded him of the sacrifices she’d made to raise him and it had a profound effect. Mathews fulfilled a promise to buckle down in school. He maintained his eligibility and proceeded to put together a 3,396-yard, 44-touchdown senior season that had coaches calling from across the country.

Despite the attention, Mathews stayed true to his commitment to Coach Hill. Mathews broke out as a junior at Fresno State, rushing for a school-record and NCAA-leading 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns. He enjoyed some of his best days against the nation’s top defenses, including a 234-yard, three-touchdown performance against Boise State. Mathews became the only player in the nation to rush for more than 100 yards against three Top-25 teams in 2009, doing so against No. 5 Cincinnati, No. 6 Boise St. and No. 14 Wisconsin.

Eager to make amends for his mother’s sacrifices and his own misdeeds, Mathews applied for early entry to the 2010 NFL Draft. Ironically, one of his childhood heroes was Tomlinson and Mathews secretly hoped to be drafted by the Chargers. Unbeknownst, the Chargers were so smitten with Mathews that they traded up 16 spots to select him with the 12th overall pick in the first round. And coincidentally, he became the first running back selected by the Chargers in the first round since Tomlinson in 2001.

Mathews and his mom now oversee the Trish and Ryan Mathews Door of Hope Chest Foundation. They have partnered with the Salvation Army to assist homeless women and children transition to independent living. Mathews serves as a spokesperson for the Chargers-Kaiser Permanente Bolts to the Q, a 5k run whose proceeds go toward the Salvation Army Door of Hope Chest, and he hosts a golf tournament to support Rady Children’s Hospital and Strikes For Kids. This May, Mathews and Ajirotutu also teamed up to give back, hosting a football camp for high schoolers at Del Norte High in San Diego.

And besides his work in the community, Mathews also has worked as an ambassador and product development advisor for Shock Doctor, a company that specializes in football protection products.

In his free time, Mathews is a big video gamer. He enjoys spending time with his two dogs, Goose and Maverick, and watching Quentin Tarantino films. A freakishly talented wakeboarder, Mathews also likes to spend time on the water at the wheel of his MasterCraft ski boat.

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