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Insider

Wise beyond his years

3/5/2012

Few high school football players compete at a higher level than Upland defensive end Joe Mathis. While some would say Mathis plays with a passion that borders on rage, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound, 16-year-old standout likely would argue that he's used to being the bullied, not the bully.

Mathis began playing football at an early age. Or, more precisely, he was signed up for football at an early age. At six years old, Mathis joined the Ontario Outlaws, a Junior All-American team in suburban Los Angeles' Inland Empire. But because he was over the weight limit, Mathis could only practice with the team and served as a water boy during the games.

Unable to play in games, his father often would send him across the street to his cousins' house, where the boys would throw on the pads and go at it. At six years old, Mathis was pushed to go against his 13-year-old relatives.