Aug. 27, 2007
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa.More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2007-08 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY — Football has always been a family affair for the Mattison’s. But if you’re planning a father-son get-together, the estimated travel distance will be more than 1,000 miles.
Father Greg is co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for defending national champion Florida. Son Bryan is a 6-foot-3, 272-pound senior defensive end at the University of Iowa. Heading into the 2007 season, Bryan covets one of Greg’s most prized possessions — a national championship.
“You would like to be in the national championship game,” Bryan said. “Everyone in the nation would give you the same answer. We’re worried about the first game and that’s not just a line coach tells us to say. It’s the truth.”
During Bryan’s lifetime, his father’s coaching journeys also included stops at Western Michigan, Navy, Texas A&M, Michigan and Notre Dame. Bryan graduated from Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a first-team all-state selection and named 2002 Indiana Mr. Football at defensive line. When Mattison was being recruited out of high school, his father was on staff at Notre Dame. Attending the college where is father worked was not an option, so Bryan took official visits to Colorado and Iowa. He was immediately sold on Iowa City.
“The minute I stepped on the Iowa campus I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Mattison said. “I consider my dad one of the best coaches in the nation, but we talked about it as a family and felt it would be best if I got away from home. I didn’t want to be known as the coach’s kid. Part of college is growing up and becoming a man.”
Greg vowed to let his son make up his own mind, but even he was impressed with and swayed by the Hawkeye program.
“(Dad) said he wasn’t going to choose where I went, it was my decision,” Bryan said. “We came here and he was excited about the University of Iowa. The coaching staff, fans and my teammates is what got me here. I love the guys I play with and the coaches are the best in the nation.”
Mattison was named Freshman all-Big Ten by the Sporting News in 2004 after seeing action in all 12 games, recording five tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. As a sophomore in 2005, Mattison received the defensive Hawkeye Hustle Award and as a starter compiled 46 tackles (30 solo) with 10 for loss, four sacks and five quarterback hurries. He recorded a career-best seven solo tackles (nine total) during a 38-21 win against Indiana. A highlight of the season came at the Outback Bowl where his father coached on the opposite sideline for the Gators during a 31-24 victory by Florida. Last season Mattison compiled 59 tackles (31 solo, 28 assists), 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. He matched his career high in tackles with nine during a 24-14 win against Northern Illinois. Mattison added six assisted tackles against Ohio State.
It has been a whirlwind preseason for Mattison, who was one of three Hawkeye player representatives at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago on July 31. He has also grabbed the attention of several publications. Mattison has been named preseason second team all-Big Ten by CollegeFootballNews.com, preseason third team all-Big Ten by Phil Steele’s Preview and the No. 27 defensive end in the nation by Phil Steele’s Preview. If continuing his football playing career after college does not materialize for Mattison, he will follow his passion — and his father — by becoming a coach.
“I would like the fans to remember a guy who made the right decisions, stayed out of trouble and gave his all on every play. I wasn’t a superstar, but I was an Iowa-type of kid who worked hard.”
UI senior Bryan Mattison
“The only way I will get to the next level is if we have a good season as a team,” Mattison said. “That’s my main goal right now. I’ll deal with the next level when it comes. If I can’t play any more after college, I would like to move onto coaching.”
Last season the Hawkeye defense allowed 343.8 yards per game, including 133.6 yards per game on the ground. Following a 4-0 start to the season, the defense surrendered an average of 25 points per game and won just twice during the final nine outings.
“I’d like to say we have a different attitude,” Mattison said. “Coach Norm Parker always tells us to play with a chip on our shoulder. That’s just the way a defense has to play and we’re hoping to get that done this year. We have plenty of good players here and we have great coaches. I’m very confident in the rest of the defense.”
After his junior campaign, Mattison was named permanent team captain and was honorable mention all-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. That was then, this is now. Mattison, along with defensive line brutes Kenny Iwebema, Mitch King and Matt Kroul are expected to handle opposing offensive lines this season, even the mammoths around the league.
“It’s easy to come to work every day when I’ve got guys like Kroul, King and Kenny there,” Mattison said. “We just come to work. As a defense, whether there is experience or not, we’d like to lead the team. We feel good but we know we have a lot of work to do. We’re excited about the season.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 6-7 season that concluded with a 26-24 loss to 2005 national champion Texas. Iowa bolted to a 14-0 lead and rallied for a 21-17 edge heading into the final period. For Iowa to make a run up the polls — and the Big Ten standings – this fall, the defensive front four will have to continue to shine.
“Obviously we’re pretty experienced up front with the interior defensive line,” UI Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The more those guys can shoulder up front, the more it’s going to help us. Mattison always brings it every day. Those four guys give us something good to build off of.”
Mattison has already enjoyed many special moments at the UI. He is hoping to live many more this season.
“My first start against Ball State (Sept. 3, 2005) was pretty fun because the staff at Ball State included personal family friends,” Mattison said. “The Ohio State game (Sept. 30, 2006) was a cool atmosphere, even though we lost and I don’t like talking about it. Then there have been all the moments working hard with my teammates that I’ll never forget.”
Mattison has a list of his favorite playing memories. The UI fans have had a memorable time watching the defensive star mature.
“I would like the fans to remember a guy who made the right decisions, stayed out of trouble and gave his all on every play,” Mattison said. “I wasn’t a superstar, but I was an Iowa-type of kid who worked hard.”