It's almost epidemic! Hoosiers landing in Lobo country is not a new phenomenon. Long before Coach Alford stepped into the Land of Enchantment, 18 year old Rene Matison, of Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana, joined the ranks of Coach Hugh Hackett's lean and mean sprint machine at The University of New Mexico. Recommended by Bernie Rivers, a current Lobo star sprinter, also from Hoosier country, Rene proved he was one of the best Midwestern sprinters to grace University Stadium.
To prove how speedy this young man was, Rene unofficially tied Bob Hayes' 100-yard world record at 9.1 seconds! Unfortunately, at the time, a 3rd clock was unavailable to make it official. But you get the idea of how valuable Rene was to his team. The Lobos' 440 yard relay and mile relay teams went on to break several school records as well as being the 3rd fastest collegiate team in history (1966). Rene went on to become a four-year letter winner in track and still holds the school record for 60 yards. He is a two-time All-American in the 440-yard relay and 100-yard dash, finishing 4th at the 1966 NCAA Championships.
As if being one of the fastest track athletes wasn't enough, Rene decided to go out for football in his 5th year, with a little coaxing from his friends. Not knowing much about how to play, he caught on quickly...and caught the ball many times as well, scoring several touchdowns for the Lobos in his short season. With his lightning speed, Rene was drafted to play the gridiron for the Dallas Cowboys. Modeling after Bob Hayes, Rene had a chance to understudy the iconic legend on his own field. Serving his country in the US Army, Rene continued to play football for the Berlin Bears football team, receiving the Army-American Spirit Award in 1970.
Knowing too well how being involved in sports complimented his education, Rene passed his work ethic on to his children, Mike and Kristan. They certainly had the genes to become successful athletes in their own right, with Kristan carrying on the Lobo legacy as a sprinter for UNM. But with his background in special education, Rene realized that student athletes often need more than just their athletic abilities to get them by.
As coordinator for Zest for Excellence in Athletics, or ZEAL, Rene helps African-American athletes excel on the field and in the classroom. The program pairs freshman athletes with mentors, who are successful African-American professionals and former athletes. As a parent of a student athlete participating in the ZEAL program, Toni Watkins writes, "Rene Matison is a man of character who shows a true appreciation for the next generation.... His unyielding hard work is shown as he attends sporting events in order to encourage young athletes and help them to succeed....Rene has a true gift for motivating athletes to do their best."
Rene continues to be involved with Lobo Track, serving as founder and president of the UNM Track and Field Club. When indoor track once again came back to Albuquerque, after the `glory days' in the 1960's, Rene was in the thick of coordinating team reunions to bring back that feeling and excitement from years ago - speeding headfirst to the finish line. Rene and his wife, Deborah, moved back to Albuquerque from San Diego, where Rene had been active in community programs for youth development.