For the second week in a row, Nebraska defensive end Ben Stille played well in a Huskers’ loss. Against Colorado, Stille recorded three total tackles (one solo and two assisted). That included a sack for a 9-yard loss. One week later against Troy, Stille had one solo tackle and one quarterback hurry.
Numbers like that can get lost in losses. Attention understandably goes elsewhere, as coaches, players and fans seek answers to what's gone wrong. Not for Dorothy Mattea, though.
Mattea is Stille’s 90-year-old grandma. She can be spotted in a crowd by her big smile and custom Stille t-shirts. On Saturday against Troy, it was a red shirt that boasted the name Stille and No. 95. One week before against Colorado, it was a black shirt with “BEN’S GMA 95” spelled out across the back.
There’s something to be said about support systems. For Stille, Mattea is there regardless of the outcome. She's been attending games at Memorial Stadium since he arrived in 2016.
“She’s my biggest supporter,” Stille told Hail Varsity. “She’s always the same, win or lose, after the game.”
That’s important for Stille, too. The defender has seen a lot of change in his three years as a Husker. He arrived as a defensive end in 2016 before former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco moved him to outside linebacker. He played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017, leading the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (3.5).
When Diaco was fired alongside former coach Mike Riley and his staff, everything changed again. Nebraska coach Scott Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander saw bigger potential for the then-255 pound outside linebacker. Put on some weight and move back to defensive end, a spot Stille always was most comfortable in.
It worked, too. Stille now checks in around 290 pounds and the numbers have shown that the defensive line is where Stille is meant to be. The problem is that his successes have been lost in the storylines. Nebraska is 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 1957. That's where the focus has been.
Again, not for Mattea. Stille’s successes are her priority, and she beams with pride when talking about him.
“He’s such a great kid and I really enjoy him,” Mattea said. “We just enjoy him so much and just look forward to the games. He’s been playing so well that we just like to be on top of it. He’s from a family of two brothers and he’s the youngest so sometimes he was used to being on the bottom.
“Now he’s on the top and I think that’s fun to see.”
Stille, a graduate of Ashland-Greenwood High School, signed in Nebraska’s 2016 recruiting class. He picked the Huskers for several reasons, but a big one was the proximity to home. Ashland, Nebraska, is only 30 miles up I-80 from Memorial Stadium.
“It’s every kid’s dream to come here and have family close to be at every game,” Stille said. “My 90-year old grandma has been to every game in the last two years and if I played across the country, there’s no way she’d be there.”
Yes, Nebraska was always a dream for Stille. Now that he is a Husker, all he wants to do is work hard. He hardly complains and is always willing to do what’s needed for the team. That means he’ll move to outside linebacker when asked. It also means he’ll move back to defensive end with no hesitation.
Stille has become a leader for Nebraska’s defense. Frost has called him a culture
builder and he’s a star pupil in strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval’s program. From what the staff has said, there’s little Stille can't and won’t do.
That doesn’t surprise Mattea. That’s the grandson she knows and loves. He’s a hard worker and an “all-around good kid.”
For Stille, he appreciates that support. Nebraska may be 0-2 and that may not be what Stille or his Nebraska teammates want, but he's still grateful for Mattea. She's a proud grandma who will be there at the start of the Unity Walk with a hug or there on the sideline after every home game.
And it means a lot for Mattea to see Stille play football for Nebraska. Those things can get lost in losses, but they're not lost on her. She’ll be there to cheer on her grandson, no matter what the scoreboard says at the end.
“He’s living his dream. That’s what’s the greatest part,” Mattea said. “No matter what, he’s living his dream.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.