When given the opportunity, Tony Mathis shined.
The former Cedartown star signed with West Virginia in February as a running back. At the time he committed in August 2018, Mathis held offers from other programs such as Iowa State, Louisville, Purdue, and Wake Forest.
Despite Head Coach Dana Holgorsen bolting for Houston in the off season, Mathis’ commitment never wavered.
The three-star prospect was not expected by many to compete for the starting spot as a freshman, but first-year Head Coach Neal Brown raved about Mathis all off season and mentioned he would receive playing time.
Unfortunately, as fate would have it, the running back tore his meniscus in mid-September. As always, Mathis continued to give it his all in practice and in the weight room, fighting hard to prove to the coaches that he should play once he became healthy.
The injury sidelined him until early this month. His first chance to earn playing time as a Mountaineer came this past weekend on Nov. 9 in a home game against Texas Tech.
His loyalty and hard work paid off.
When Mathis entered the game was already out of reach. The Red Raiders had a sizeable lead late in the fourth but the Mountaineer faithful stayed in the stands.
Alike his days in the red and black, Tony gave them something to cheer about.
Backup quarterback Jarret Doege flared a swing pass to the left side of the field toward Mathis. Tony caught the ball at the nine-yard-line, turned up field, and barreled into a defender at the goal line. His momentum carried him into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown.
West Virginia lost to Texas Tech 38-17 but, at the end of the day, the final score did not matter. What mattered was Mathis’ resilience and diligence coming to fruition.
“It felt good knowing I could make something happen, even in my short opportunity window,” said Mathis. “My slight injury affected this season but I knew that, whatever they opportunity they gave me I was going to make the most of it.”
When asked if the touchdown held any special meaning to him, Mathis was pretty straightforward. “Honestly, not really,” he said. “It felt just like any other one before. I was just glad I could contribute.”
Mathis recorded 14 rushing yards on four carries against the Red Raiders. The receiving threat also tallied 16 yards and a touchdown on three catches.
Though West Virginia is 3-6, a bowl game is not yet out of reach for the young Mountaineers. If they can win out against their next three opponents (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and TCU), they will earn bowl eligibility.
Tony’s next chance to reach pay-dirt will come this Saturday. West Virginia will play at Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.