Photo by Gregory French
As MTSU football prepares for their matchup against Alabama A&M, running back I’Tavius Mathers and wide receiver Ty Lee are set to make their Blue Raider debuts.
Mathers’ college football journey is coming to a close just as Lee’s is about to begin. Mathers has experienced recent adversity, while Lee has seen unparalleled success where he last played. Mathers uses his legs as weapons, and Lee relies on his sure hands.
The only thing the redshirt-senior and true-freshman have in common is that they will be sporting blue jerseys on the field this Saturday.
Coming out of Blackman High School, the 2011 Mr. Football and four-star Mathers chose to further his education and football career at Ole Miss.
Mathers was a part of many historic moments at Ole Miss, including the 2014 win over top-ranked Alabama. While he led the team in rushing yards in 2013, he was used sparingly in 2014. Serving as a change of pace back in his junior year, Mather’s ended his career with Ole Miss rushing for 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns.
He then made the decision to come back home to Murfreesboro and finish things where they began. After having to sit out a full season for NCAA transfer rules, Mathers is pegged to start Saturday in his first action on the field since December of 2014 when the Rebels lost to TCU in the Peach Bowl.
“I’m pretty excited,” Mathers said when asked about his emotions heading into Saturday. “I’m just trying to stay calm, and then once Saturday gets here, just have fun.”
Sitting out a full season is never easy and in Mathers case, it was even harder to do so. Because of a nagging injury that followed him from Ole Miss, Coach Stockstill wanted him to take it easy in 2015 to make sure he was 100 percent for this season.
“I told him that he wasn’t going to do anything in summer conditioning,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “He didn’t run. He lifted but he didn’t run. Last fall he didn’t do anything. He just stayed off to the side and rehabbed and didn’t do anything, because I said I wanted him healthy when he could play.”
After a strong showing during the summer and into fall camp, Mathers earned the honor of starting tailback this fall.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Mathers responded when asked what it means to have the starting gig locked up. “I still come out every day and act like I’m on the bottom of the depth chart and continue to improve every day.”
While Mathers will be trying to shake off the rust, his teammate Ty Lee will be trying to keep his streak going.
The Georgia native hasn’t lost in his last 30 games, leading Colquitt County High School to back-to-back state championships.
“Really smart player,” All-American Richie James commented when asked about Lee. “When he was at Colquitt, he went 30-0. You know he knows the game. He’s been there, he’s done that, he’s a winner, and I’m really excited to see him play this year.”
Lee earned the opportunity to start after key injuries at the wide receiver position the past few weeks.
However, Coach Stockstill said his abilities to listen, learn and work at the position were the reasons he listed him at the Y-position.
In his senior year, Lee recorded 928 yards and nine touchdowns receiving while also totaling 826 yards and five scores on the ground.
Fellow wide receiver Patrick Smith believes its Lee’s brain that makes him such a weapon.
“He’s smart, and that’s what gets him throughout the game, his intelligence,” said Smith.
Desmond Anderson made the jump from running back to wide receiver just last week following the injury of Jocquez Bruce, yet he already has formed a special bond with the young player.
“I actually look at him like my little brother,” Anderson said. “He’s a really good athlete. He comes out here and works hard just like everybody else, and we take the time and teach him up and coach him up if he did anything wrong. But really, he’s just like one of us on the team.”
While the team won’t show their whole playbook this Saturday, fans should still be able to get a solid dose of what it to come with Mathers and Lee.
Kickoff against Alabama A&M this Saturday at Floyd Stadium is set for 6 p.m. Tickets are free to students who show their ID, and student guest tickets can be purchased at the ticket office located outside of the stadium by Gate 1-A on Faulkinberry Drive.