Deerfield running back Matthew Fox dodges a Mount de Sales defender during a game earlier this season. Fox has a strong bond with his family off the field, which has helped him jump out to a fast start on the gridiron, where he led the Knights with 218 yards and four TDs Friday against Stratford. (Tim Darden/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY — As Deerfield-Windsor running back Matthew Fox tells one of many hunting stories, his small smile turns into a full-fledged grin.
On a trip with his father, Fox had never shot a buck, and he was afraid he had missed the opportunity one morning nearly 10 years ago.
“As we walked up to the deer stand, we saw one underneath the stand but he left,” Fox said. “I told my dad that we might as well leave. Dad told me we needed to stay. About five minutes later, that buck came back out. I hadn’t shot a rifle much before. It was a pretty big deer. We didn’t want to let it get away.”
As it turned out, the younger Fox and his father, Matt, tag-teamed the buck and shot it at the same time. The 8-point trophy is mounted in the younger Fox’s bedroom.
Matthew has countless outdoor stories. He, his father and younger brother William often take fishing trips, some deep sea and some along the Flint River. It isn’t as much about the catch as it is about the bonding. You see, the boys and their father share an inseparable bond.
Those strong family ties have spilled over onto the football field. Like the relationship Fox shares with his father, he also shares a similar one with his football teammates at Deerfield-Windsor.
Last week, Fox had a career-night in a 28-21 victory over Stratford. The senior scored the decisive touchdown with 30 seconds left on a 4th-and-3 dash from the 32-yard line. He finished with 218 yards rushing and scored all four touchdowns, including a 57-yard scamper on the first play of the third quarter.
“These guys understand that somebody like Matthew has a lot of God-given ability,” Deerfield coach Allen Lowe said. “It’s about all 11 of those guys on the field. Matthew understands he has got to have all of those guys, and the guys up front understand that they have to have him. That’s how this game is.”
Life can be busy for the Fox family. Between the football practices and the games, as well as homework from a full day at school, those weekend trips are when the father and sons get a chance to unwind. Matthew said that’s when he gets lot of pointers from his father. Matt played running back at Westover High School in the early 1980s.
“They take a big interest in Matthew,” Lowe said of the Fox family. “They’re behind him and they want him to succeed. They do that with all of their kids.”
The elder Fox isn’t afraid to help his sons. Matthew said he once was supposed to be trolling on a deep-sea fishing trip with his father several years ago. While he was watching the pole, a Wahoo snagged the line and nearly pulled him in.
That’s when his father and a few others stepped in.
“He told me they might need to get this one,” Fox said. “I was younger, and that fish was way too much.”
After nearly an hour later, his father and some helpers pulled in the 80-pounder, then the group had fish steaks for dinner that night.
Through the father and son’s special relationship, Matthew has learned the value of his teammates. He is a key reason the Knights are 3-1 as they play host to perennial state power Tattnall Square this week.
“He’s always talked to me about never being lazy, never taking off in practice,” he said. “He always said hard work will always help you in the end. Those are things you can apply in life because it’ll always be true.”
Fullback Grey Lanier, a cousin of the Fox family, said a big reason for Matthew’s success last Friday was his team bond.
“Being his lead blocker, it helps a lot knowing what he wants to do,” Lanier said. “We knew last week what he wanted to do, and we were going to try our hardest to help him out.”
Just like when his father helped him bag the 8-point buck.