Stalwart defensive back earns top athletic award

Rodney Mathews (#2) set a record for tackles in a season and was named co-Male Athlete of the Year. (Doug Bergen / Citrus College Football)

Rodney Mathews (#2) set a record for tackles in a season and was named co-Male Athlete of the Year. (Doug Bergen / Citrus College Football)

The Citrus College male and female athlete of the year awards are presented to students who stand above all others by meeting requirements based on athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character.

A panel of coaches voted for the prestigious award recipients, who were acknowledged at the annual academic achievement ceremony on May 30 at Citrus College.

This year, one of the athletes receiving the award is Rodney Mathews.

Mathews has had an incredible career while playing strong safety for the Owls football team at Citrus. He set a new record for the Owls with 54 solo tackles in 2012 and had a team-high 89 total tackles for the season. In 2011 Mathews was a first-team All-West Conference selection and in 2012 he was named the CCCFCA Region IV All-State first-team. He recorded 158 tackles and ranks second in school history with nine interceptions and third with 14 pass breakups.

Mathews graduated from Damien High School in 2010. He moved to Texas after high school and played football in a small D2 school. When he decided to return to California, he was torn between Citrus, Chafee, and Mt. SAC. Of all three schools, Citrus coach Ponciano responded first with much enthusiasm. This ultimately helped Mathews decide that Citrus would be the best school for him.

Mathews attended Citrus for two years and has been involved in football the entire time. Playing for the Owls earned him multiple full ride scholarships.

When it came time to transfer, the final decision was between Illinois and Fresno State. Fresno was more appealing because the school is in state, and only 3-4 hours away, allowing his parents to come to his games.

Mathews transferred and enrolled at Fresno State for the start of the 2013 spring semester. He has incredible speed and agility, running the 40-yard dash in 4.51 sec. The Fresno Bulldogs signed Mathews to build some depth and competition in the strong and free safety positions.

Mathews’ teammates are sad to see him go and only had supportive words for him. Traevon Beddard, wide receiver for the Owls said, “He is a great leader and a great mentor.”

“He’s one of those people that can offer inspirational words to bring you up when you are down. He gets you on track with what you need to do,” said Beddard.

“He definitely deserves this award, he is a really hard worker. It was a pleasure playing with him. He is a great safety,” said Isaiah Kepley, wide receiver and kicker for the Owls.

“Rodney is a great guy on and off the field. He taught us how to stand up and have confidence. He makes practice fun. He’s just a great guy,” said Michael Ball, wide receiver for the Owls.

“Rodney is one of those guys that has a rare combination that every coach loves: athleticism, character, and a degree seeker. He always led by example. He was the guy that always made big plays. He’s a coach’s dream really,” said Ponciano.

In addition to having tremendous athletic ability, Mathews is an excellent student. He is currently majoring in mass communications and plans to be a broadcast journalist. His long-term goal is to be a senior analyst and sports anchor at ESPN.

Keep up with Rodney Mathews, now playing the safety position for the Fresno Bulldogs at