The Iowa football program has played in bowl games 15 times in the last 21 years. Much of that success is due to the Hawkeyes' tradition in the trenches.
Forty-eight Hawkeyes who played OL, DL, DE or TE have been named all-Big Ten during the span, and last season was as successful as any other. LT Robert Gallery, LG Eric Steinbach, C Bruce Nelson, TE Dallas Clark, DT Colin Cole, and DE Howard Hodges were all named all-Big Ten after dominating the line of scrimmage during the Hawks' undefeated conference campaign.
Although the defensive line lost Cole, three others starters and top reserve Matt Roth are still on campus. The Iowa coaching staff was also able to have a banner 2003 recruiting year along the defensive front. Promising recruits George Eshareturi, Richard Kittrell, and Alex Willcox were brought in to play defensive tackle, and Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison will play defensive end.
There were many talented prospects in the 2003 group, on both sides of the ball, but maybe none more intriguing than Mattison.
The Mishawaka, Ind., native led Penn High to a 12-1 record and the Kingsmen were the top-ranked 5A team in Indiana for most of last season. Mattison (6-3, 240) was not only named first team all-state and MVP of his region, he was also voted the best prep defensive linemen in the state. He collected 70 tackles as a senior, including 41 solo stops and added 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
But those impressive stats don't tell the entire story.
"That was one of the best defenses we ever had," said Penn coach Chris Geesman. "Bryan played a big part and led the team in tackles for losses even though they usually ran away from his end side of the field.
"Not only did they run away from him, there were five games that he didn't play at all in the second half after we were well ahead. He had a very good senior season."
Penn is an Indiana prep football superpower, with five state titles and three second-place finishes under Geesman in his 30 years with the program.
Mattison received 20 scholarship offers, including Iowa's. Some high school athletes have a hard time dealing with all that attention but Mattison took it in stride.
"I listened to all of the college coaches when they called during the football season and treated them all equally because I didn't want to worry about the decision and let it interfere with our season," Mattison said. "High school football means a lot to me, and I didn't want to lose focus."
Mattison's father, Greg, said his son handled the recruiting process extremely well. And he should know. The elder Mattison coaches the defensive line and serves as recruiting coordinator for Notre Dame and has 27 years of major-college coaching experience under his belt.
"So many young men change during the recruiting process from all the attention that they get, Greg Mattison said. "I was very proud of Bryan because he kept a very even keel about the whole thing. He handled it very well."
"My dad does this for a living," said Bryan Mattison. "So any questions I had, he knew the answer right away.
"He knows things about other coaching staffs - and hears stuff - so he had a lot of information."
"We knew we were looking for a successful football program at an institution that had a successful academic program," said Greg Mattison. "When it came down to it, Iowa was that place for Bryan. If I didn't feel that way, I would have said something to Bryan. He knows that I feel that Iowa does things the right way."
"I loved Iowa City when I visited on my official visit and when I was there unofficially," said Bryan Mattison.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has said many times that Iowa City and the University of Iowa often sell themselves to a large degree if the coaching staff can get a recruit to make a visit. But much like it did with junior DE Matt Roth, the Iowa staff did a great job with the Mattison family.
"Iowa was the first team to send me a college letter, even before smaller Division II schools," said Bryan Mattison. "That was really cool. They also were the first school that ended up offering me."
Greg Mattison also has good things to say about the Iowa coaching staff. "Bryan knows the respect that I have for Coach Ferentz, and the respect that I have for Norm Parker and Ron Aiken. Those three and Coach Doyle are the four guys that will totally affect how successful Bryan is. All four are outstanding people and coaches, in my opinion. He is in great hands."
Bryan Mattison Up Close
Name: Bryan Mattison
High School: Penn (Mishawaka, Ind.)
Position: Projected to play DE at Iowa
The skinny: A football player's football player with a tremendous motor and a great nose for the football. Has a great football background – his father coaches DL at Notre Dame – and great football intelligence. Always the first kid in the weight room and on the practice field and the last one to leave.
Quotable: "The early interest from Iowa was only part of what separated the Hawks from other schools. I really enjoyed talking to Coach Ferentz, Coach Parker and Coach Aiken. They were the three that I usually talked to, and I loved talking to all three."
This story first appeared in the October 2003 Issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine and is an example of the 'feature' based content and writing that appears in our monthly publication.
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