The meaning behind the mane

November 7, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Senior linebacker has heart to match physical prowess

Sports | Tyler Schmidt for The Clarion

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Senior Linebacker Seth Mathis is a strong specimen upon first glance. The golden locks of hair that flow from the back of his helmet rivals that of a shampoo model. He resembles Clay Matthews or a modern day Samson; but take a closer look and you’ll find that not only does Mathis possess physical strength, but he also has an inner strength that comes from fierce determination and a loving heart.

The last time Mathis had his hair cut was four years ago when he found out that his father was diagnosed with cancer.

“When he was first diagnosed, I found out about a group called Locks of Love,” Mathis said. “They accept donations of human hair, which they use to make wigs for kids with medically-related hair loss." Mathis' dad has since fought and won the battle with cancer, but that hasn’t stopped Seth from making a difference.

There are thousands of children who are victims of an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata, which causes the hair follicles to shut down. This results in hair loss not only in the scalp but often times in the eyebrows as well. For Mathis, the answer was easy.

"When football ends this year, I will get my hair cut," Mathis said. "It's about 10 inches long. I have encouraged the guys on the team to grow theirs long and donate it to Locks of Love too.”

Senior Jesse Phenow has grown out his mane to a similar length and plans to donate with his teammates. Mathis’ younger brother Landon, a sophomore linebacker, plans to donate as well. Take a quick look at Bethel’s team photo and you’ll see just how many people have followed his example.

"Seth is a leader, on and off the field," head coach Steve Johnson said. "He is not overly vocal, but has earned the respect of his teammates with his hard work and ability. He is kind, humble and an all-around great guy. The other players see one of the most talented players on our team being one of the hardest workers, and they respect that and follow him."

Mathis' path to Bethel was somewhat atypical for a four-year player. Coming out of high school, Mathis was highly recruited and decided to walk on at the University of Minnesota. After feeling dissonance within their football program during summer camp in 2009, he chose to take a year off of football and take some classes at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. That August, Coach Johnson called Seth on a whim. The phone call was just a casual check in to see how things were going. The call ended with “Coach J” saying “see you tomorrow at camp.” Mathis showed up the next day, and the rest is history.

If you have seen the Royals play in the last four years it isn’t hard to identify Mathis on the field. Not only does he have a Thor-like appearance, but he also performs remarkably well on the field is astonishing. This year alone, Mathis has amassed 77 total tackles, averaging 11.1 per game. Add in two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown and Mathis is a top contender for MIAC Defensive Player of the Year.

In Mathis’ time at Bethel, he has a total of 304.5 tackles, making him Bethel’s all time leading tackler. He has also earned an All-Conference award twice, and was selected as an All-American.

“While Seth obviously gives us so much on the field, he gives us even more off the field with his character, dedication and hard work,” fellow linebacker Lee Tenenoff said.

There’s no doubt that Seth is making a difference on and off the field with what he does as a player and with what he gives back to the community. For now, the locks will stay as he looks to continue leading Bethel’s undefeated charge into the NCAA playoffs. His Samson-like strength and courage will still be present even after the hair is gone.

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