Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 | 8:30 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer work through their final podcast of the school year by discussing the state basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena this weekend.
Yet, each college coach who recruited him had a similar sales pitch: “We’d love you to walk on.”
That all changed in late January when new UTEP coach Sean Kugler paid a visit. The Miners offered him a scholarship, and after taking a recruiting visiting this past weekend, Mattox knew he had found a college home.
Mattox verbally committed Tuesday and will receive a full scholarship. Several programs don’t issue kickers a scholarship — a fact Mattox painfully learned during the recruiting process.
“Coach Thurman (James, the Las Vegas coach) would always tell me that if I was a running back or wide receiver ranked that high I would have 15 offers,” Mattox said.
Mattox had been rated as one of the top-10 kickers for his graduating class by Chris Sailer Kicking, but saw his ranking drop to No. 17 in the past month when other kickers committed to colleges. Some, however, went as preferred walk-ons and received little scholarship money.
That makes Mattox one of the fortunate ones.
“Coach Kugler told me how coaches don’t like to pay for kickers (to be on scholarship), but they still need them,” Mattox said.
Mattox picked UTEP over preferred walk-on offers at UNLV and BYU. Both schools would have considered issuing him a scholarship later in his career.
UTEP, aside from the scholarship, showed the most interest in Mattox. During his recruiting trip, he was impressed with the strong community support for the team. When he checked in at the hotel last weekend, the front desk clerk asked why he was in El Paso. When Mattox told him he was a kicker taking a recruiting trip, the clerk helped in the recruiting.
“He was like, ‘That’s great, man. We need a kicker,’” Mattox said. “It’s Texas and a college football town. Everyone is so involved there.”
Mattox played soccer during his freshman year at Las Vegas before joining the football team. The 5-foot-11 left-footed kicker immediately found success on the gridiron, making 10-of-13 fields goals in 2010 to be named a Maxpreps.com All-American.
In 2011, he made 6 of 7 field goals with a long of 46 yards and booted 47 of 68 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback — a valuable stat in high school because it forces the opposition to start at its 20-yard line. That helped him earn a 4.5 star rating on Chris Sailer’s scale of five evaluating stars.
Last fall, he placed 42 of 47 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback and averaged 40 yards per punt in handling the punting duties for the first time. He won multiple all-state and all-league awards.
At UTEP, Mattox said he’ll be the starting punter as a true freshman and will compete with a junior kicker for the kickoff and field goal duties.
“I really felt welcomed there. Like I belonged,” he said of the visit.