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Isabella Brooke Knightly and Austin Gamez-Knightly

Isabella Brooke Knightly and Austin Gamez-Knightly
In Memory of my Loving Husband, William F. Knightly Jr. Murdered by ILLEGAL Palliative Care at a Nashua, NH Hospital

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Against all odds: Mathews' mom sacrificed

unhappygrammy-This is an awesome story! A story about a mother and the love of her son, who beat all odd's. A mother and son in this day and age wouldn't stand a chance living the way they did. The state would have stepped in and turned their life into a nightmare. She took care of her son and stood by him. Isn't that what mother's are for?

Against all odds: Mathews' mom sacrificed
Hard times 'worth it' for new Bolts running back, mother

SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 2010 AT 12:02 A.M.

Ryan Mathews’ mom, Tricia Mathews, never missed any of her son’s football games. Alex Horvath / Bakersfield Californian

There wasn’t room for much in the Mathews home when Ryan Mathews was a baby.

Only the necessities fit in a Cutlass Supreme.

The boy, a few months old, had two cloth diapers. He would wear one of them, while the other dried after his mom washed it.

Tricia Mathews, 16 years old, would get her daily meal in a Riverside soup line. She did odd jobs to pay for her baby’s milk.

The Cutlass, turned so many shades of green by the sun, would be parked in a church parking lot at night. What clothes they had were stored in the trunk. There was drinking water up front, some soap to use when showering in a nearby park.

There was a blanket and a pillow, and mom and son would sleep wrapped up in it and each other.

This story could have gone down a much different path than it has.

“I don’t know why,” Tricia Mathews said. “Maybe there was a bigger plan.”

Maybe it’s coming to fruition now.

Her son, Ryan Mathews, is about to become a millionaire. He’s going to play running back for his favorite team, taking over for his favorite player.

“All the suffering I went through is worth it for this moment for him,” Tricia said, speaking by phone Friday morning. “All those tired nights I wanted to quit but I didn’t, it was worth it to see his face when he picked up that phone.”

That would be the phone to answer the call Thursday night from Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith after the Chargers had made a bold move up in the draft to select Ryan Mathews 12th overall, making him the successor to the iconic LaDainian Tomlinson.

By the time Ryan hung up, Tricia was in tears.

“We made it,” she told her son.

Friday, after his introduction to the San Diego media, Ryan Mathews said, “That’s exactly what it is. We did make it. She’s worked very hard and done everything she can to turn me into the man I am today.”

Tricia also told Ryan that he’s grown up now, that it is his time.

But, in a way, this moment is hers, too.

“I am proud of myself,” she allowed. “I had a lot of people tell me I was doing a horrible job raising my son. I just did what I felt. I raised him from my heart.”

Yes, she worked a lot and sometimes Ryan was left alone “earlier than some people might think is right.” She let him dye his hair blond when he was 8, “because that’s what he wanted to do.” There weren’t a lot of rules in the home, “but he didn’t break any.”

She never missed a football game since he began playing. She made sure Ryan knew he was loved. She worked whatever job could be worked so he could have whatever he needed.

Tricia was in Fresno with Ryan on Thursday. She moved there from Bakersfield when he went to college and moved to Tennessee after this past football season was over.

“I’m going to live my life now,” she said.

Ryan Mathews said he’ll do whatever he can for her.

“She’s the reason we made it,” he said.

The “we” Mathews referred to was his brother, Dante, actually his closest friend since third grade whose mom abandoned him when the boys were about 13. Tricia took the boy in and eventually attained guardianship.

“Several times she could have called it quits,” Ryan Mathews said. “She never did. She’s a real strong woman with a tremendous heart.”

Tricia Mathews spoke matter-of-factly about the startling road she and her son have traveled. She said a few times she didn’t know how or why she made the decisions she did.

“I loved my little baby boy I had,” she said. “I wanted to give him something I didn’t have, and that was a good life.”

She came from a broken family, did not know her father. Her mother, clean 15 years now, was a drug addict at the time Tricia got pregnant.

Ryan’s father, who never married Tricia, left before the baby was born. According to Tricia, he has seen Ryan four times, most recently six years ago. She refused to apply for welfare and has never sought child support.

After a few months living in the car, Tricia simply decided, “This isn’t who I am.”

She sold the Cutlass for $100, used that on a bus ticket and moved in with her grandmother in Tehachapi. She got a job (jobs), saved some money and got an apartment.

Tricia “did a little bit of everything,” including washing dogs. She worked the 6 a.m. shift at a gas station and waitressed in the afternoon. For a while, as a third job, she drove around a landscaping crew on weekends.

She eventually got hired as a wind server operator, working 6 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. in the middle of nowhere.

“All by myself,” she said with a laugh. “I stopped watching scary movies real quick.”

She worked her way up, getting into data analysis before leaving the company after moving to Fresno, though she continued to work.

“I never stopped working,” she said. “I just kept trying to get better in life. … You can either be a victim in life or work hard to get something.”

It rubbed off.

By many accounts a kid without a character blemish, Ryan went through a brief period in high school where he was skipping class. He failed some. He wanted to quit football.

“That was our one argument in his whole life,” Tricia said. “… I told him you’re not going to quit because of this funk you’re in.”

Ryan had a lot of work to do to get out of his academic hole. While other seniors were enjoying their final months, he had to double up on classes, trying to get eligible for college.

“I thought, ‘He’s not going to get through it. He didn’t do it when it was easier, he’s not going to do it when it’s this hard,’ ” Tricia recalled. “But he did it. I’m so proud of him. He did stick to it and persevered. He just proved to me he’s a little me.”

Kevin Acee: (619) 293-1857; kevin.acee@uniontrib.com


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