Joe Mathis has a new role on for the Huskies where he’s moved from a part-time starter at defensive end to the No. 1 outside linebacker. The American Ethnic Studies major attained a 3.0 grade-point average during the winter quarter. And on Saturday, he turns 21.

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It’s all coming together for Joe Mathis.

About time, too, he says.

A few years ago he fought the changes in his life. Hated it in fact. Now his entire world is all about transitioning and he’s loving it.

The 6-foot-2, 256-pound senior has a new role on the field for the Huskies, where he’s moved from a part-time starter at defensive end to the No. 1 outside linebacker.

The American Ethnic Studies major has finally embraced the academic side of being a student-athlete and attained a 3.0 grade-point average during the winter quarter for the first time.

And Saturday, he turns 21.

But the biggest change in Mathis’ life is at home where he’s awaiting the arrival of his son, Joe Mathis IV, this summer. The due date is July 31.

“It changed me,” Mathis said when asked about impending fatherhood. “It makes you thank the Lord for every day he puts you on this earth and count your blessings.”

Mathis thanks his fiancée, who he has known the past 11 years, for helping him get focused on his studies.

As a four-star recruit from Upland High in Ontario, Calif., Mathis ranked 268th nationally on ESPN’s top 300 list. He received a scholarship from UW, but had difficulty gaining admittance due to a low SAT score.

Admittedly, he struggled in the classroom in part because he didn’t take it seriously.

“My fiancée really got on me and wanted to change me,” Mathis said. “And I wanted to change myself, too, and prove everybody wrong. Some people think I was ignorant or didn’t have the smarts to be here.”

Mathis cites his 3.0 GPA last quarter as one of the biggest achievements during his UW tenure.

“And I’m looking forward to being on there next quarter, too,” he said.

Mathis is on schedule to graduate next year, which will be a milestone.

“I’m the only person in my family to have ever really went to college,” he said.

After football, Mathis plans to return to Ontario and start a business with his uncle training professional athletes and mentoring kids.

During a 15-minute interview after UW’s spring football practice Wednesday, he used the word blessing a half-dozen times when describing his life.

He also laughed when recounting his early struggles at Washington. Mathis had been fiercely loyal to former coach Steve Sarkisian and considered transferring when Chris Peterson took over in 2014.

“Every college football player at one point thinks that, but a real man sticks it out,” Mathis said. “That’s adversity. And Coach Pete taught me that adversity is the key component of a champion but the enemy of the weak. Either you’re going to run away from it or you’re going to be a man and stand there and fight.”

The turning point for Mathis came near the end of his sophomore season and the first year with Petersen. As a junior last season, Mathis played in 11 games and started seven at defensive end. He registered 30 tackles, including six for loss, and two sacks. This season, he’s sliding over to a hybrid linebacker and defensive-end position that entails more pass-coverage responsibilities.

It’s been a lucrative spot for UW players recently.

In 2014, Hau’oli Kikaha set the school record with 36 career sacks before being taken in the second round of the NFL draft. Last year, Cory Littleton had 65 tackles and six sacks. He’s considered a mid- to late-round draft prospect.

“I’m happy I learned from the best in Hau’oli and Cory Littleton,” Mathis said. “I’m ready to go. It’s my turn now.”


• Former Husky linebackers Travis Feeney and Littleton headline UW’s Pro Day on Thursday morning. Feeney is expected to attend, but he may not participate in drills during the private workout for NFL scouts due to a recent sports hernia surgery, according to The other 10 participants include: WR Jaydon Mickens, DB Brian Clay, P Korey Durkee, WR Marvin Hall, LS Ryan Masel, TE Josh Perkins, OL Siosifa Tufunga, DL Tani Tupou, RB Dwayne Washington and OL James Atoe.