UK Football

Backup QB Davis Mattingly is UK football’s everyday optimist

UK players critique scrimmage

Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love and quarterback Drew Barker talk about team's first scrimmage of fall camp.
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Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love and quarterback Drew Barker talk about team's first scrimmage of fall camp.

On Dec. 4, 2013, Davis Mattingly was sitting in his car at Male High School before the school day began. For reasons he does not recall, Male’s standout quarterback had a feeling that he was on the verge of an unusually good day.

On Twitter, @dmattingly13 tweeted out, “Today’s gonna be a good day.”

When Mattingly’s day lived out the prophecy of his tweet — it was good — the current Kentucky Wildcats walk-on quarterback decided there may have been a self-fulfilling causation.

Which is why, pretty much every morning for the past three years, Mattingly’s Twitter day has begun with the same message:

“Today’s gonna be a good day.”

Among his UK teammates, Mattingly’s tweets have become the quarterback’s calling card.

“Every day when I see that Davis tweet — ‘Today’s gonna be a good day’ — then I know it’s gonna be a good day,” deadpans quarterback Stephen Johnson II.

Defensive back Chris Westry once tweeted at Mattingly: “If I got a dollar for every time you tweeted this.”

Mattingly says when he walks around the UK football training facility “everybody is (saying to me), ‘Today’s gonna be a good day.’”

What gives Mattingly’s resounding Twitter optimism a certain pathos is, at least in a football context, no one could blame him if he felt some bitterness at his fate.

It’s beyond puzzling how a quarterback of Mattingly’s high school pedigree and physical stature wound up a college walk-on.

“Strangest thing I’ve seen since I’ve been in football,” says Male Coach Chris Wolfe. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

In two years as Male’s starter — playing Class 6A football in Jefferson County, the best high school pigskin our state has to offer — Mattingly led the Bulldogs to a 23-3 record. Included were three wins each over Trinity and St. Xavier, the traditional kingpins of Kentucky large-class football.

Over those two seasons, Mattingly completed 62 percent of his passes, threw for 5,457 yards and 60 touchdowns.

The 2014 Class of the Commonwealth selection had prototypical QB size, 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, with both arm strength and accuracy.

Mattingly was also Male’s Class of 2015 valedictorian.

Yet not one NCAA Division I school offered him a scholarship.

“Initially, the FCS schools (formerly Division 1-AA) came in, saw his size and arm strength, and were like ‘No way we have a shot at him,’” Wolfe says. “Then, late in the process, when I told them no FBS school had offered, the FCS schools were like ‘Well, we’re already committed to someone else at quarterback.’ It was beyond frustrating.”

Wolfe thinks the fact that Mattingly did not attend many college camps early in his high school career hurt his recruiting viability. The Male coach also acknowledges that Mattingly lacked one physical attribute that tends to be much scrutinized in college football recruiting.

In an era that prizes mobile quarterbacks, Mattingly is not fleet afoot.

“He ran a 5.2 40(-yard dash),” Wolfe said. “I think that scared some people off. But you know what I told the college coaches? ‘Davis runs the same thing in the 40 as Tom Brady (5.28). How’d that work out?’”

Still, no D-I scholarship school came through with an offer. Mattingly found himself choosing from among preferred walk-on opportunities at Kentucky, Marshall and Western Kentucky, as well as interest from Morehead State (non-scholarship FCS), Kentucky State and Kentucky Wesleyan (NCAA Division II), and Lindsey Wilson (NAIA).

A lifelong Wildcats fan, Mattingly picked UK.

When he reported to Kentucky’s camp last August, it did not take Mattingly long to make an impression on the other UK QBs.

“Last fall camp, in his team period, I think the first 10 practices, he didn’t have an incompletion,” said Drew Barker, the Wildcats projected 2016 starting quarterback. “We were like, ‘Is this kid a robot? What’s going on?’”

For a walk-on quarterback to make an on-field impact in games, it usually takes all the scholarship QBs either failing abjectly or all getting hurt.

At Kentucky, “I think the coaches here are open-minded and will play the guys who can make plays,” Mattingly said. “I’m just working to be one of those guys.”

Whether or not Mattingly ever gets a chance to play meaningful football for UK, Barker says he is making a contribution to the Cats.

“He’s really smart from a football standpoint,” Barker said. “Having a guy like that in your quarterback room is awesome.”

To a football program that tends to need all the good vibes it can get, Mattingly also brings his unrelenting “today is gonna be a good day” Twitter optimism.

“Obviously, I’m a human so there are some bad days,” Mattingly says. “But I like to wake up with the mind set that I’m not going to have a bad day. I mean, I get to live. I get to be here. I get to play football. … I am blessed.”

So, today, Davis?

“Absolutely,” Davis Mattingly says, “today is gonna be a good day.”

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