Martay Mattox appears to have finally found his college-football home.
Mattox, a well-traveled junior safety, will be in the starting lineup Saturday when the Charlotte 49ers play their inaugural game against Campbell at Richardson Stadium. Depending on how the coin toss goes, Mattox might be the first 49er to carry the ball as the teams kick returner.
The 49ers are Mattoxs third team in three years. Starting out at South Carolina in 2011, Mattox transferred to a junior college in Mississippi in 2012 before moving on to Charlotte this season.
Hes played college football before, hes been around, said Charlotte coach Brad Lambert. Hes settled in here and has already showed hes going to make a huge difference for us.
But it has been a long road for Mattox.
A star quarterback and defensive back at Clark Central High in Athens, Ga., Mattox was one of the countrys top prep prospects in 2010. He reportedly drew interest from Clemson, Georgia, Florida State, Mississippi, Michigan, Northwestern and Georgia Tech before signing with South Carolina.
Mattox enrolled at South Carolina in January 2011. He practiced with the Gamecocks defense in the spring, but didnt have a major impact. Listed as a third-team cornerback before the 2011 season began, Mattox was suspended for South Carolinas opener against Georgia for academic issues and ultimately red-shirted.
Thats as far as Mattox made it at South Carolina. He transferred to East Mississippi Junior College for the 2012 season.
There were different things that went on, said Mattox of his time at South Carolina. Im a totally different person now. You live and learn. Its behind me, in the past. Im moving on.
Playing mostly receiver at East Mississippi, Mattox had an impressive season in 2012. In one game, he caught six passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
Looking for a second chance at a four-year school, Mattox decided to head to Charlotte to help the 49ers start their program.
With two years of college eligibility remaining, Mattox has made the transition, nailing down a spot as the 49ers starting strong safety. He will also return kickoffs.
Right now Im one of the few older guys we have, said Mattox (6-foot-2, 192 pounds). Im helping the younger players weve got, encouraging them not to get down on themselves. Theyre doing a good job of staying at the level theyve gotten to.
49ers junior free safety Desmond Cooper, who will play alongside Mattox, also began his career at a Football Bowl Subdivision school, Wake Forest. Cooper hosted Mattox when he took his recruiting visit to Charlotte earlier this year.
The two havent spoken much about their experiences in FBS programs.
We dont really get into that, said Cooper, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
Said Mattox: The focus we have is whats going on here. Des and I are using some things that we learned in the past. What were trying to do is not make it seem like this is a defense thats in its first year. We want to make it seem like this defensive unit has been playing football for a while.
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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