acook | Posted: 27 Oct 2015 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

Loyal, strong and true: Ryker Mathews, giant on and off the field

main image

This story was originally published in the BYU-Wagner football game program on October 24, 2015.

Loyal, strong and true: Ryker Mathews, giant on and off the field

Loyal, strong and true, wear the white and blue

While we sing get set to spring, come on Cougars it’s up to you.

-BYU Fight Song


For Ryker Mathews, pushing around big, heavy objects is business as usual. While that opposition usually comes in the form of 250-plus pound defensive linemen, the 6-foot 6-inch, 320–pound offensive lineman has done his share of heaving lifting off the field.

Building a Giant

Ryker Mathews has certainly not had the healthiest of athletic careers. He enters the 2015-2016 season with a long list injuries. Mathews began his career by having to redshirt his freshman year due to an injury that occurred just three days before the season opener.

Braden Brown, a former teammate and mentor remembers the attitude Mathews took after his first season-ending injury.

“Being the type of guy that Ryker is he just worked his butt off and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Brown said. “It was good to see him stick with it and even though he was out that season physically, he was still working and getting the mental reps.”

His ensuing freshman season Mathews battled through a torn labrum before having to undergo hip surgery in the offseason followed by a sophomore year where his body slowly healed and back to full health.

He had a mountain to climb but he just put his nose to the grindstone and decided he wasn’t going to let the injury define his career,” Brown said.

Even in his junior year Mathews managed to stay healthy through ten games of the season before again facing a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. But through the string of injuries, Mathews has maintained a positive outlook along with a vision of the lessons that he has gained through his career.

“Every injury I’ve had has helped me to realize that it’s part of the sport and as long as I rehab and do all that I can I’ll be back as strong or stronger than I was before,” Mathews said.

While the physical limitations and setbacks have been frustrating, opposition is something Mathews has faced from an early age in life. When Ryker was six years old he lost his father to pancreatitis.  

“Obviously it was tough growing up without my biological dad,” Ryker said, “my mom got remarried and divorced and remarried again, so it was hard.”

In addition to losing his father, Mathews had several out of state moves in relation to his step-father’s employment. Eventually, his family returned to settle in American Fork where he attended middle school and high school.

“I’ve learned a huge load about patience. Things are going to happen and life is going to hit you with curveballs and I just have to learn to hit them,” Mathews said.


Loyal, strong and true

The curveballs and challenges in his life have created a man of gigantic character: loyal, strong and true. While on the field he towers over most opponents, off the field it isn’t difficult for his teammates to recognize the giant-sized character of number 72.

Ryker Mathews is a fiercely loyal, strong and true guy,” fellow lineman Ului Lapuaho said. “There will be sometimes in practice when I want to get mad and do something stupid like get a penalty but Ryker is always the one with the clear head. He’s the anchor.”

“You think about the lyrics to the fight song, loyal strong and true, that’s what I think about Ryker Mathews as a teammate, as a player and as a person,” Brown said. “Emotionally and mentally he’s been through some things in his life and he’s been true to himself as a person, what you see is what you get.“

As a fifth year senior, Mathews anchors the Cougar offense and is a source of strength and support for his teammates on and off the field.

“He’s definitely a leader on the offensive line,” sophomore teammate Tejan Koroma said.”He’s really smart and he gets the playbook so well and he’s able to read defenses, so not only is he able to inspire me to be able to read the defense and know the playbook well, but he also just helps each of us out and teaches us.”


Wearing the White & Blue

As an offensive lineman at American Fork High School, Mathews was a dominating force on the field. He received local and statewide acclaim in the football community and was selected to the U.S Army All-American Game following his junior year of high school.

“I was actually really surprised,” Mathews said. “When I got selected as an Army All-American it kind of blew me away to find out that I was playing well enough to be selected.”

Mathews was also recognized as a leader by his teammates and named to be a team captain. He left the All-American game in San Antonio confident in his abilities to play at the next level and with plenty of attention from different schools looking to recruit him.

“By the time my senior year ended I had quite a few more offers, but I had told myself and had told my family that I wanted to stay in state. I wanted to be close to my family and give them the opportunity to watch and support me was a big deal for me.”

As it came down to making a final decision, Mathews noticed the difference he felt between BYU and other schools and it became a key factor in his choice. “I enjoyed the atmosphere here a lot more from what I had seen and I’m not mad about my choice.”

Now as a fifth year senior wearing the white and blue, Mathews has seen first-hand what goes into creating such a unique atmosphere. He describes the Thursday Heroes Program as the most impactful part of his BYU experience.

“There’s just so many stories of people and little kids that we’ve done Thursday’s Heroes with that are so touching,” Mathews said. “It’s probably been the coolest thing that I’ve done here at BYU and I’ve loved it. I don’t think there’s any other college in the country where I could have gone and had this type of an experience.”


Ready To Spring

Mathews isn’t the only one who has been anxious for his return to health and the 2015 season.

“It has been frustrating because you want the kid to be healthy and he has been battling. But when I think about his approach from the surgery until now, I don’t think he has ever prepared himself as well as he has right now ” offensive line coach Garret Tujague said.

After months of rehab and conditioning to get his body back into game shape, Mathews has also worked to give himself a clear vision for what he wants to accomplish this year.

“I want to leave with no regrets after this season,” Mathews said. “I want to go into every game and every practice with the full intent of becoming the best player I can be and not complaining about what may have happened to me or what was or wasn’t fair. I want to have the attitude of taking football by the horns and do what God has given me the gift to do.”

The no-excuses attitude is something coaches and fellow players have seen become a part of Ryker’s life even beyond football.

“I will tell you that the best thing about Ryker is that he is physically, mentally and spiritually in such a great place right now,” coach Tujague said.


Cougars, It’s up to you

With high hopes this season, Mathews is excited to play in front of so many friends and family.

“Man, I love the Cougar fans,” Mathews said. “They treat us well and they’re everywhere around the world. They may not think so, but it makes a big difference traveling all over the place and when we walk into LaVell Edwards and hearing those screams chanting BYU and it changes the way we play and it really does affect us.”

As Cougar nation continues to support Mathews and the rest of the Cougar athletics this year, Ryker Mathews will continue to be a leader on and off the field, living loyal, strong and true to the values endorsed by Brigham Young University.

Recent Stories

Camp Helmet 2023
2023 Fall Camp: Practice 5—BYU Football History and Notables

BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning. 

Kicking 2023 Fall
2023 Fall Camp: Practice 4—Kelly Poppinga and Specialists Preview

BYU football practiced Friday for its fourth session of fall camp as the Cougars continue their first week.