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.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: First-round pick (12), April 22, 2010...signed Aug. 2.
2014: Scored first touchdown of season on 20-yard run in Sept. 8 season opener at Arizona...was 21st career rushing touchdown, breaking tie with Mike Tolbert for sixth on team’s all-time list...injured right knee in third quarter Sept. 14 vs. Seattle Seahawks and did not return... prior to injury, helped ignite second-quarter touchdown drive with 20-yard catch on second play of drive...later in drive had apparent sixyard touchdown run wiped out by penalty...inactive Games 3-9 vs. Buffalo, Jacksonville, New York Jets, Oakland, Kansas City, Denver and Miami (knee)...returned to action Nov. 16 vs. Oakland and logged 70 yards on 16 carries, including 20-yard run to set up third-quarter field goal...first 100-yard game of season with 105 yards on just 12 carries Nov. 23 vs. St. Louis for single-game career high of 8.8 yards per carry...during game, passed Natrone Means for fourth on team’s all-time rushing list...in third quarter, gave Bolts 13-10 lead on 32-yard touchdown run for longest TD run of career...marked sixth time in seven games had run or catch of 20 yards or longer...scored touchdown on 14-yard run and went over 4,000 career rushing yards in 34-33 win at Baltimore Nov. 30...injured ankle Dec. 7 vs. New England...inactive Dec. 14 vs. Denver, Dec. 20 at San Francisco and Dec. 28 at Kansas City.
2013: Rodney Culver Memorial Award as Chargers’ Offensive Player of Year...All-AFC by PFWA...In Sept. 9 season opener vs. Houston, scored first touchdown 15 seconds into game on 14-yard catch...was first-career TD catch and fastest offensive touchdown to start game in team history...Sept. 15 at Philadelphia, rushed for game-high 73 yards and during first offensive series, moved past Dick Post for eighth on team’s all-time rushing list...Sept. 29 vs. Dallas, raised career total to 2,702 and moved past Keith Lincoln (2,698) for seventh on team’s all-time rushing list...team-high 102 yards Oct. 14 vs. Indianapolis for first 100-yard game since Dec. 2011...Oct. 20 at Jacksonville, rushed for 110 yards and scored a touchdown (3 yards) for second-straight 100-yard game...also raised career rushing total to 2,922 to move past Don Woods (2,858) and into sixth on team’s all-time rushing list...season-long 51-yard run set as part of 127-yard effort Nov. 17 at Miami...17th career rushing touchdown in 41-38 win at Kansas City Nov. 24 moved him into tie for eighth on team’s all-time rushing TDs list... rushed for 103 yards Dec. 8 vs. N.Y. Giants and moved past late Chuck Muncie (3,309) and into fifth place on the team’s alltime rushing list...helped fuel 27-20 upset of 11-2 Broncos by becoming first running back to top 100 yards vs. Denver with 127-yard effort Dec. 12 at Sports Authority Field...23-yard TD run in third quarter for 24-10 lead was secondlongest scoring run of career...rushed for 99 yards Dec. 22 vs. Oakland and increased season total to 1,111 to new season high...also scored TD on sevenyard run, which was 20th of career, tying Mike Tolbert for sixth in team history... helped put Bolts into playoffs with career-high 144 yards in Dec. 29 season finale vs. Kansas City...ignited first scoring drive of game with 44-yard run, second- longest of season and third-straight game with run of 20-yards-orlonger... effort vs. Chiefs included four straight runs for 27 yards, including 10- yard carry on 3rd-and-1 during game-winning FG drive in OT.
2012: Inactive Weeks 1-2 (collarbone)...first rushing touchdown of season (13 yards) and totaled 139 yards of total offense Oct. 7 at New Orleans...season-high 95 yards rushing Oct. 28 at Cleveland...moved past Mike Garrett and into 10th place on team's all-time rushing yardage list Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay...passed Gary Anderson for ninth on team's all-time rushing list Nov. 18 at Denver...injured collarbone Dec. 16 vs. Carolina and placed on “Reserve-Injured” list Dec. 18.
2011: Pro Bowl... Rodney Culver Memorial Award as Chargers' Offensive Player of Year... caught 50 passes and combined with Mike Tobert for 104 catches, second-most by any running back tandem...season-high 73 yards receiving Week 1 vs. Minnesota...two rushing touchdowns Sept. 25 vs. Kansas City and Dec. 18 vs. Baltimore, tied for most in game at Qualcomm Stadium ...career-long 42-yard catch on 2nd-and-18 during third-quarter touchdown drive Oct. 2 vs. Miami...back-to-back games of identical 149 scrimmage yards in wins over Chiefs and Dolphins...career-high 137 yards rushing and career-long 39-yard carry Nov. 27 vs. Denver...third 100-yard game in three career outings vs. Broncos...31-yard touchdown run Dec. 5 at Jacksonville tied career-long scoring run...112 yards on 13 carries vs. Jags, averaging 8.6 yards per carry, highest in game with at least 10 rush attempts...37-yard run Dec. 11 vs. Buffalo marked third-straight game with run of 30 yards or longer... over 100 yards third-straight game vs. Bills, team's longest streak since 2007...topped 1,000 yards for season in 34-14 win Dec. 18 vs. Ravens on NBC Sunday Night Football.
2010: Combined with Tolbert as first running back duo in franchise history with at least seven rushing touchdowns each...also franchise's first rushing duo to each top 600 yards since 1993...injured ankle Sept. 19 vs. Jacksonville...inactive Sept. 26 at Seattle...first-career touchdown (15 yards) Oct. 3 vs. Arizona...season-best 120 yards and three touchdowns (27, 12 and season-long 31) in 33-28 win at Denver Jan. 2.
COLLEGE: Second-team Associated Press and Sports Illustrated All-America and first-team All-Western Athletic Conference in 2009...second-most career yards and carries (534) in school history...school-record 11 total and nine-straight 100-yard rush games in '09...third (vs. Boise State '09) and fourth (San Jose State '09) best rushing games in school history...WAC Offensive Player of Week following '09 Boise State, San Jose State and Utah State games...led nation's freshman in '07 with 14 touchdowns and 6.0 ypc avg... played at Fresno State from 2007-09...general studies major.
PERSONAL: Born in Riverside, Calif...led nation in rushing as senior at West High in Bakersfield, Calif. with 3,396 yards and 44 touchdowns...second-team All-America and first-team all-state in '06...CIF Champions in '05.