Bad history, bright future
Running back Lawrence Mattison signed with OSU Wednesday, had difficult journey to reach his goals
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 05:02
The story of Lawrence Mattison is far from ordinary.
Playing football in the best division in Texas and being on the verge of graduating high school should be considered remarkable given Mattison’s past.
Mattison, Smithson Valley High School’s star running back for the last two years, signed his letter of intent to become a member of the Oregon State football team on Wednesday.
The road to Corvallis was treacherous.
It was the passing of his father — who died of heart failure in 2006 — that began the downward spiral.
“After he died, I kind of made it seem like I could do anything I wanted because my excuse was he was dead,” Mattison said over the phone Tuesday. “It got me into a lot of trouble, and it got me kind of careless.”
He resorted to alcohol in his middle school years and was succumbing to poor influences around him.
His interest in football came from his father, but it was short-lived.
“When I first got into football in fifth grade it was because he got me into it,” Mattison said. “But then after that, when he passed away, I stopped caring, started hanging with the wrong people.”
Not only was he getting into bad situations, he never had a place to call home.
“We were bouncing around a lot,” Mattison said. “I lived in a lot of places, different schools in each state.”
After a six-month stint in Charlotte, N.C. where he said he got better, Mattison came back to Spring Branch, Texas, just north of San Antonio to live with his mother again. He began at Smithson Valley High midway through his freshman year.
“He had a ponytail, he had a grill, had the baggy clothes,” said Karee Berry, a football teammate and one of Mattison’s two closest friends. “Some people were a little afraid of that. It was something different. I don’t think anybody was really ready for it.”
Mattison didn’t realize his mother was a serious alcoholic until high school. He said it started becoming obvious she had been hiding her alcoholism from him.
“Slowly but surely, she started showing it,” Mattison said. “It just got to a point where my dad’s dead, and after that my mom — she got even worse.”
She started kicking him out of the house on random occasions. The situation reached its lowest point in the summer between Mattison’s sophomore and junior year.
“My mom was taking my social security check and she was blowing it on alcohol,” Mattison said. “She had a friend that she was going out to see, she went out to California, she kept leaving me in this apartment. The bills started adding up, things started adding up.”
He said he wouldn’t have been angry at his mother if she had used the check for paying bills. But rent, car and cell phone payments were never made, and Mattison was on his own.
His mother is currently getting sober at an alcohol rehabilitation center in Dallas, but Mattison also says he heard she had been in California and Colorado. He hasn’t talked to her in one or two months, he said.
Mattison’s teammates and two close friends, Berry and Diego Hodges, were some of the first to know about Mattison’s troubling past.
“He came here and had problems no one really knew about,” Berry said. “Me and Diego are two people that I think he was able to open up to. Me and him were his first friends at school.”
Students and staff at Smithson Valley eventually started learning about Mattison’s story, too.
“He’s very sincere about what happened, and he tells you the truth and how it’s affected him,” said school principal John Montelongo III. “It’s one of those things where you almost can’t believe it.”
Mattison’s football career, and personal well being, took off once he initiated a concerted effort to straighten out his life, and shut out the death of his father and the failure in parenting by his mother.
Larry Hill, Smithson Valley’s head football coach for the last 20 years, remembers the exact moment when he knew Mattison had special talent.
“We ran a draw play and he made an unbelievable cut … to the backside, not even where the hole is,” Hill said. “This was probably a 20 to 25 yard run, and at or near the 5-yard line the safety had him cornered. He just dropped his shoulder and exploded, just exploded, the safety and scored standing up.”
In his junior year, Mattison rushed for 1,943 yards and scored 27 touchdowns.
Those statistics — and the 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame he has — were bound to get noticed.
Oregon State was interested in him as a future running back, but never knew they would stumble upon someone with a story like Mattison’s.