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Mind & Muscle: Brighton’s Mathews uses gifts to reach Harding Football

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MLS-02-09-Malik Mathews signing 4c MLS-02-09-Malik Mathews graphicHis mother LaRasha felt his strength as he grew in her womb.
His father Titus Sr. witnessed that power come to fruition through weightlifting. Then people like Brighton Head Football Coach Robin Jacobs saw the undeniable speed of Malik Mathews. All the adults in Malik’s life knew he had the potential to reach great heights.
Once Malik developed his leadership skills on the football field and pushed himself in the classroom, his dream of National Signing Day became a reality. Joined by teammates, friends, coaches and family like stepfather Claude Sims, baby sister Londyn and grandmother Mary Hall, Mathews inked his letter of intent to play football at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.
“I’ve been looking forward to this even before I started playing football in elementary,” Mathews said. “About when I was 6  and we would play football behind the house,” he added. “I used to run the ball and nobody could catch me, couldn’t stop me — playing with my brothers and cousins.”
Testing his natural skills, Malik received some words to live by from his mother.
“His hard work got him here,” LaRasha said. “Work hard and play hard. Malik was a go-getter. He was always a fast runner. Once he discovered football, he was unstoppable from there.
“My motto with him is ‘Work hard, play hard and pray hard,’” she added.
Malik increases his faith at the Divine Revelation Outreach Ministries in Covington. He sharpens his mind in the classrooms of Brighton High School and the nearest gym is where he improves his physical strength.
The standout speedster started his workout habits trying to keep up with his father and big brother Titus Jr.
“It took him from being a child playing with some weights his older brother stopped using to him staying in the garage lifting on these weights,” Titus Sr., recalled. “This little bitty guy lifting weights bigger than he was.
“He always wanted to run and race,” he added. “He got his older brother. So he watched the foundation of his older brother. He paid close attention to us. He don’t quit easy. He’s a dedicated young man to what he does. When I saw he was dedicated to football, ‘I was like oh no. It was the basketball I wanted you to do.’ But once was dedicated to football, basketball was out of the question.”
Malik acknowledge basketball didn’t have a chance to become his favorite sport because football captured his heart.
Malik’s passion for football became a blessing for Jacobs and his program. After a tough 2014 season, Mathews got into the rotation for the Cardinals in 2015.
“When I first saw him he was unbelievably fast,” he said. “He had played some JV games and scrimmage games with us and did extremely well. We had to get him moved into the right area. He’s always been a super, great kid.
“There has never been a question about that,” Jacobs continued. “He got his grades under control and those things going in the nick of time. He got his ACT score up to where it needed to be. That speaks volumes of him. The pressure was on him. They told him if you want to play football in college and do these two things we’ll give you an opportunity. He did it and they fulfilled their end of it too.”
Mathews will become a Bison and play for Head Coach Paul Simmons. He leaves one winning situation to join another powerful program. Harding University under the guidance of  Simmons went unbeaten during the 2016 regular season.
The Bison won the Great American Conference title of NCAA Division II. After a pair of wins in the playoffs, Harding was defeated by No. 1 Northwest Missouri State.
Mathews’ prep career came to an early end as well in the playoffs against Henry County in a classic overtime contest.
The senior athlete was a huge part of the turnaround at Brighton helping the Cardinals win the Region championship his junior season.
“He was great,” Jacobs said. “He had a hurt leg for the first couple of games. But after that he came on and did exactly what he was supposed to do. We couldn’t have asked for a better guy to come to work or to practice to be in front of everybody.
“He wanted the football and I knew he was always special,” he added. “We played Munford this year and we went for it on a fourth and three on their end of the field. He broke it for a 75-yard touchdown. We did that because of him. It was solely because thought he could get three yards. He got 75.”
Jacobs said Mathews is a player you can count. LaRasha said her son is dependable off the field as well.
“It makes me feel amazing to know they wanted my son to be there,” she said. “He’s a very humble person. He’s a very well respected person. Everybody loves him wherever he goes. He makes a Mother very proud. He makes me very proud. People look up to my son and see a mentor. He has worked hard for this.”
Titus said his son was blessed with goos surrounds his entire life that helped him reach the milestone of National Signing Day.
“I’m very proud of him,” he said. “He can go to college and do more of the same. It was a lot of help from the coaches over the years. The first one was Coach Larry. He used to pick up all the kids and had them on the back of his truck. He was a good coach. And the coaching staff they have now has helped all this transpire. He has had it good all the way around.”
Jacobs said the Brighton Football program is proud of Malik and his accomplishments. And adding his name to the list of National Signing Day signees Charles Mosley (Tennessee) and Theron Kadri (Vanderbilt) is a major achievement.
“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of what he’s practice and done up till this point got him here,” the veteran coach concluded. “Where he is going is a great opportunity for him lifewise down the road. To get one of these from them is a big deal. That makes it even more special.”

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