It says plenty about Boise State’s Alexander Mattison that he never really had a “welcome to college” moment.
Rarely did opposing defenders put the hurt on the true freshman running back in 2016. In fact, he was the one announcing his arrival.
For the 5-foot-11, 216-pound sophomore, his most fond moment of his debut season was when he created extra yardage on a 15-yard reception against BYU, one of only two touches he had that game. He did it by bowling over linebacker Fred Warner, a likely NFL player who had seven tackles, an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble in the Boise State win.
“The one moment where I kind of noticed, ‘I’m here now,’ and my time was coming, was the BYU game,” Mattison said. “... That was my mentality, it doesn’t matter who you are, I’m going to play 110 percent, go full speed and now I’m ready to showcase that at a feature spot.”
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After rushing for more than 2,000 yards his last two years of high school in San Bernardino, Calif., Mattison quickly established himself worthy of playing time.
Behind Jeremy McNichols, Mattison rushed for 328 yards last season on 67 carries, scoring four touchdowns. It should be of little surprise he’s likely to take over as the Broncos’ No. 1 back this fall.
“His physicality really stood out to me, he wasn’t afraid of anybody, and that was his mentality from the start,” junior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “I’m really excited for him. I think he’ll have a breakout year.”
For Mattison, he’s ready to shoulder (no pun intended) the load this season.
Coming off surgery for a torn labrum that severely limited him in the spring, he is working his way back into shape and is more than eager to continue a tradition of productive backs. The Broncos are one of two teams nationally to have a 1,000-yard rusher in eight straight seasons, the other being Auburn. Only Boise State has churned out 1,100-yard backs in each.
“Now, I’m in a position where there’s going to be a lot more pressure on me ... I have to be the legs of the offense,” said Mattison, who added “I know I have something to prove.”
Mattison rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown in the Broncos’ season opener at Louisiana, just a few weeks after his shoulder injury. He played with it through the season, as did McNichols, who had the same affliction.
“It showed up the first week or two of fall camp, I played all season on it,” Mattison said. “... I’m participating fully, I’m ready to go. I think it played a role in my mentality, that you never know what’s going to happen, you have to keep going.”
Only Mattison and senior Ryan Wolpin (38 carries) have game experience in the Broncos’ backfield, which will include redshirt freshman Robert Mahone and true freshman Drake Beasley when fall camp opens Aug. 1.
“There’s not going to be a lot of experience in that room, Alex played a lot last year ... there’s a lot of doubts, but we’re going to use that as a chip on our shoulder,” Wolpin said. “But it’s always been like that, the big back leaves and somebody else steps up.”
As the likely starter, Mattison said he is ready to “attack it.” With three Boise State running backs in the NFL, Mattison has the potential to be next, but he is well aware it won’t simply be handed to him.
“I know now that I’m in that position, I have to get it done,” Mattison said. “It’s nothing short of a blessing ... I’m ready to seize that opportunity and help lead my offense to a Mountain West championship, bowl game, the whole nine.”