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January 25, 2008Bryan Mattison hadn't even had a chance to unpack his bags after returning to Iowa City from the Shrine Game when his agent called to tell him that the Senior Bowl had an opening on the defensive line and they wanted him down to Mobile as soon as possible. That meant Mattison would be heading to Chicago to catch a flight through a nasty snow storm along with other hurdles that he had to climb.
The agent for the former Hawkeye defensive end had been in touch with the Senior Bowl in the last week discussing the possibility that a player or two might choose not to participate or get banged up in practice.
On Monday night, Mattison was just starting to settle in back home and looking forward to getting back in the weight room with strength coach Chris Doyle when the phone rang and he found out he was headed to Alabama to participate in the biggest of the post season college all-star game as he would replace North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer on the roster.
"I took off from Iowa City to O'Hare on Monday night about 9:30 that night and drove through the snow, which was pretty dangerous. Semis were passing me and the roads were completely covered with snow. I was pretty scared a couple of times. It ended up taking me about 5 ? hours to get to Chicago and I got a hotel room and got some sleep because I had an early morning flight," Mattison said.
Along the way, Mattison dialed up his teammate, Charles Godfrey, who is also on the North squad to share the good news.
"Charles was pretty pumped up when I told him I was headed down there to join him," he said.
After a late night of travel, Mattison was hoping that things would go smoothly the rest of the way down to Mobile, but O'Hare Airport is never easy and as he got out of the shower on Tuesday morning, he saw a message on his phone that said his flight had been cancelled.
"I ended up having to book another flight that left in the afternoon from Chicago and finally got down there on Tuesday night. It was quite an adventure, but it was worth it."
Once he arrived, Mattison took part in a fully padded practice on Wednesday with the North squad in front of various scouts, general managers, and owners who were in town. It was a pretty big audition for his future career and he was doing it at a relatively new position, defensive tackle.
"Most people think that my future might be at defensive tackle because the ends today are generally around 250 pounds and have a little more speed. Right now I could use about 15 more pounds, but I am making the best of it this week," he said.
Among the coaches there on Wednesday to greet Mattison was his father, Greg, who is the co-defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators. The proud father knew his son would hit the ground running once he arrived.
"He's the kind of guy who's going to practice as hard as he can. That's what we've always talked about when he was growing up. If you're going to play this game, play it as hard as you can," said Greg Mattison.
Even a couple of days later, the excitement hasn't worn off. But, like his father says, you can expect nothing short of a great effort from Bryan Mattison this weekend.
"It is a thrill to be here," he said. "I really never knew that I had a chance and feel very fortunate that I was picked. I have learned a lot in a short period of time from the Raiders coaching staff and I am going to give it my best effort on Saturday."
Hawkeye fans can watch Bryan Mattison and Charles Godfrey in action on Saturday afternoon in the Senior Bowl. It will be broadcast on the NFL Network starting at 3:00 p.m. central time.