Dec 5, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. San Diego defeated Jacksonville 38-14. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Top 10 Chargers of 2011: #1 Ryan Mathews

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The NFL Network is releasing their Top 100 players of 2012 and there just is not enough Chargers action on that list, so the staff at Bolt Beat got together to create a Top 10 Chargers list based off of their performances from last season.  I was lucky enough to get #1.

1) Ryan Mathews

Not many people know that Ryan Mathews started his life homeless.  For the first few month of his life he lived with his 16 year old mother in her car.  Hoping for a better life for her son, his mother started him in football when he was five.  She never missed a game and he made her dreams reality.

As a high school senior, Mathews led the nation with 3,396 rushing yards (9.97 yards per attempt) and 44 touchdowns as a running back.  He also had 851 passing yards and 11 touchdowns as a quarterback.  Pac-10 and Big 12 schools, who had interest in him, backed away because of fears he would not be academically eligible. Fresno State remained in the recruiting scene and eventually Mathews signed with them.

As a freshman, Mathews rushed for 866 yards on 145 carries and scored 14 touchdowns. His rushing yard average and touchdowns led all NCAA freshman.  As a sophomore, he ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA in rushing yards and touchdowns after four games.  Unfortunately, he was injured in the fourth game against UCLA and could not complete the season.

As a junior, Mathews led college football in rushing with an average of 150.67 yards per game.  He totaled 1,808 yards on 276 carries and 19 touchdowns.   His 1,808 yards rushing ranks him third.   Behind  former Charger LaDainian Tomlinson (Mathews wore No. 21 at Fresno State in his honor) and George Jones in the WAC season record books.  Following the regular season, he was given numerous individual awards, including being named first team all-WAC and a second team All-American by CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, and the Associated Press.

His junior year he was a second team All-American. NFL teams were sniffing around, so he skipped his senior year and declared for the 2010 draft.  Our San Diego Chargers picked him up in the first round with the 12th overall pick.  The 6’, 218 lb Mathews was elated to be a Charger since he grew up a big Chargers fan.

Last year, in his second season, Mathews missed out on key developmental field time as the lockout cancelled all organized off-season activities.  That did not keep the 25 year old cutie from excelling on the field.  Mathews finished with 1,091 rushing yards and six touchdowns and was selected for the Pro Bowl.

He also finished in the NFL’s top 10 for yards from scrimmage.  All that said, he had a few issues with losing the ball, but just like Rivers I expect it was due to the entire team being discombobulated.  This year look for Mathews to break records and not just be in the NFLs top ten, but like he was voted by Bolt Beat writers, number one.

Bolt Beat Top 10 of 2011:

10. Takeo Spikes
9.   Malcom Floyd
8.   Antwan Barnes
7.  Jared Gaither
6.  Mike Tolbert
5.  Vincent Jackson
4.  Antonio Gates
3.  Philip Rivers
2.  Eric Weddle

2011 Stats:

Rushing Receiving
Year GS Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng YScm Fmb
2011 13 222 1091 6 39 4.9 50 455 9.1 0 42 1546 5
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2012.

 Bolt Beat Staff Ranking:

Writer
Mike Tolbert Bolt Beat Ranking
Ernie Padaon9th
Cindi Spears-Cahill7th
Randy Mainwaring6th
Korey Kaczur4th
Booga PetersN/A
Phil Lam8th

ChargerGirl Cindi

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