A bullish running back who joined Napa High’s varsity football team as a freshman and became its unquestioned leader. A hard-hitting linebacker at Cal, as comfortable in the classroom as on the AstroTurf of Memorial Stadium. A feisty, fearless human pinball who played five seasons with the Chargers and lasted seven NFL seasons amid faster and taller opponents.
The Chargers haven’t kept it a secret this offseason that they want third-year tailback Ryan Mathews to handle a significant 2012 workload. Coach Norv Turner believes Mathews is “ready to take that next step,” and has likened Mathews to Ricky Williams, who carried the football 383 times in 2002 and 392 times in 2003, when Turner was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator.