Senior offensive lineman Tanner Matthias is a three-year starter for Topeka High and earned All-City and All-Centennial League honors last fall.
But despite those laurels, the 6-foot, 260-pound guard knows he’s never going to get a break from Trojan head coach Walt Alexander … on the field or at home.
Matthias is Alexander’s stepson and lives with his mother, Tammy, and Alexander. While being around the coach constantly could translate to some awkwardness, Matthias said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love everything they do for me,” Matthias said. “I wouldn’t be the kid I am without my mom especially, but when Coach A showed up in my life he pushed me to be the best and I train to be the best. I’m the smallest one on the O-line, but I want to be the best.
“Nothing’s going to stop me. Height is not going to stop me and it’s because of everything my family and my parents drilled into my head when I was a kid.”
Adding another branch to the Trojan family tree is the fact that Walt’s son, Blake Alexander, who played for his dad at Atchison County, is Topeka High’s defensive coordinator.
Walt Alexander didn’t hesitate when asked if he was harder on Blake and now Tanner.
“There’s no question,” said Alexander, who also coached Tanner’s older brother, Tyler. “I refer to Blake and Tanner constantly when I’m talking to our team. I tell them, ‘I don’t feel sorry if I’m hard on you because I’m twice as hard on those guys. They don’t get a break, they don’t get a miss. There are no excuses.’
“But they grow up and love it because they know how much we put into it. Their expectations are like ours because they just grow up with it.”
Matthias said he welcomes the toughness that Walt provides.
“I know what college is like,” he said. “I’ve seen the practices and this is just getting me ready because it’s hell up there, it honestly is, and if he’s hard on me now it’s just going to be a lot easier later.”
Walt said he doesn’t like to overload Tanner with football talk at home, but the subject still comes up frequently.
“Me and him talk football more than Blake and I used to,” Alexander said. “I think I ripped into (Blake) really good his sophomore year one time and it didn’t go well at home. I felt bad and I said, ‘That’s not fair because I can’t do that to all the other kids. They get to go home and get away from it and he never does.’
“So after his sophomore year I never talked about football at home with him and I don’t with Tanner unless he brings it up, but Tanner just brings it up. Tanner is a fanatic. He loves football and he talks about it constantly.”
Matthias said he has added incentive to talk football with Alexander this season.
“I was named senior captain this year so what I do is I will get pointers from him and I’ll relay it to the other guys what we need to work on and what we need to do,” Matthias said. “Plus, I like talking about our team because I love my team.”