When NFL calls, Doss will answer

“Are you my son?”

Tammie Chambless asks that question when she looks at her only child and wonders if he might just be too good to be true. Keelan Doss has accomplished quite a bit in 22 years. He graduated from UC Davis in December with a degree in sociology after becoming one of the top wide receivers in college football.

If Chambless thinks Doss is a bit annoyed by her posting and boasting on Facebook, imagine what will happen her son’s name is called Saturday when the NFL Draft enters rounds 4-7. Doss emerged in 2016 by catching 66 passes for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a junior in 2017, he had 115 receptions for 1,499 yards and seven touchdowns on his way to being named the the Offensive Player of the Year in the Big Sky Conference.

Doss could have skipped his senior season at UC Davis and entered the draft last year, but he had a feeling that 2018 would be special. The Aggies won seven of 26 games in Doss’ first three years (he redshirted in 2015), then went 5-6 in 2017 after Dan Hawkins returned to his alma mater as coach.

Doss could have skipped his senior season at UC Davis and entered the draft last year, but he had a feeling that 2018 would be special. The Aggies won seven of 26 games in Doss’ first three years (he redshirted in 2015), then went 5-6 in 2017 after Dan Hawkins returned to his alma mater as coach.

As Hawkins restored pride in the program, the decision by Doss to stay put inspired his teammates to sacrifice as much as he did by opting to return instead of pursuing fame and fortune in the NFL.

If Doss had “unfinished business,” as Hawkins said, the Aggies repaid Doss for in his investment of faith by going 10-3, earning a share of the Big Sky championship and reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time.

 If Doss had “unfinished business,” as Hawkins said, the Aggies repaid Doss for in his investment of faith by going 10-3, earning a share of the Big Sky championship and reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time.

Chambless loves to brag about her son on Facebook, but she refuses to accept any credit for all he has accomplished. “This is his story. This is his doing. This is his path,”  she said. “I’m his biggest fan. He’s not one for attention. He’s always telling me, ‘Mom, you don’t have to tag me in everything on Facebook.’”

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“Is that your grandson?”

Bob Matteson expects to hear that question when he sits in his favorite Lodi donut shop and proudly points out the framed photo of Doss on the wall. Chambless’ father realizes how difficult it will be for most folks to come to grips with the notion that an 83-year-old white man is claiming to have a black grandson.

“It’s always been perfectly natural for us,” Matteson exclaimed in reference to anyone who might think otherwise.

Doss visited his grandfather at the donut shop in November and autographed the photo. According to Chambless, Doss sent her a text after four hours to let her know he was still in Lodi. Mattson begs to differ with the time element, saying Doss stayed no longer than 90 minutes. Doss says it was more like 2 hours.

“(Doss) made his grandpa’s day,” Chambless said.

What really mattered to Matteson is that Doss took the time in the heart of football season to visit his grandfather. Chambless and Doss’ father, Keith Doss, never married, so Chambless and her son lived with her parents when Doss was a toddler. In raising her son, Chambless counted on her parents to lend a hand.

Even after Chambless and Doss moved to Alameda, her parents continued to provide guidance for their grandson. “They believed in him when he was finding his way,” Chambless recalled. “That’s all he needed.”

Doss has paid tribute to his grandparents with tattoos on his left arm. He got his first after turning 18,  much to his mother’s chagrin until she learned the tattoo would be of her father’s favorite Bible verse – John 3:16.

The second tattoo is a portrait of his grandmother, Julie Matteson, who died in 2016. Chambless has the same one.

“She will live forever with me,” Doss said of his grandmother. “She was a great person. She treated everyone equally.”

Julie Matteson did not see saw her grandson as black. Doss has never thought of his grandparents as white. Chambless is as proud of her son for embracing his mixed ethnicity as she is of his ability to catch a football.

“I’ve never put two and two together. I don’t think about it like that,” Doss said. “It’s a weird dynamic, but I’ve never been bothered by it. I can be both black and white. That’s great for me. Everybody’s the same anyway.” 

Reed in need of a second chance

Save your breath with Michael Reed. No one needs to tell the 26-year-old outfielder that he squandered a golden opportunity with the San Francisco Giants. Reed may well be the first player in major-league history to start the first two games of a season and then be told to get lost four days later.

The Giants thought enough of Reed to start him on opening day in San Diego five days after acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Reed was hitting .278 with a home run and four RBI in eight Grapefruit League games when the Twins sent him on his way to the city by the bay.

Reed actually joined the Giants in Arizona. After going 0-for-4 in three Cactus League games, he was just informed just hours before the opener on March 28 that he would start. The news was as much a surprise to Reed as it was to any Giants fan trying to figure out who he was and why he was in right field.

His position was about all that went right for Reed, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being replaced by Yangervis Solarte, Manager Bruce Bochy juggled his batting order for the second game and elevated Reed from seventh to leadoff. Reed responded with three strikeouts in as many at-bats – baseball’s version of a hat trick.

That was the beginning of the end. Reed did not start again and struck out twice in his last four at-bats as a Giant. In urgent need of an outfielder who can do more than whiff, the Giants acquired Kevin Pillar from the Blue Jays on April 2 and told Reed to clean out his locker.

Being designated for assignment at least allowed Reed to catch his breath. Being traded five days before the start of the regular season and trying to become acquainted with new teammates had left him gasping.

And that was before he learned he would start on opening day. With all of 35 at-bats in the major leagues entering the season, Reed does not believe he was over his head as much as he was in it too often. He turned into Crash Davis in the movie “Bull Durham” when Davis talked to himself at the plate. “You’re thinking too much, Crash. You’re thinking too much. Get out of your (expletive) head.”

Reed can relate. His new teammates did all they could to make me feel welcome, Reed said, but he might as well have been on a deserted island when he returned to the dugout after striking out again and again.

“There were quite a few guys who came to me and said, ‘We’ve got you. Just relax,’” Reed said. “At the same time, I’m thinking in my head that I’ve got to impress. Maybe I was pressing too much. I was looking at video (of his at-bats) every day. Maybe I should have gotten out of my head and just been an athlete.”

His confidence has remained intact through each trial and tribulation. Reed knows he can play in the major leagues. He expects a second chance will come his way and plans to take advantage of it when it arrives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have to impress anybody,” Reed said. “I just need to be who I am and let everything else take care of itself. I know I can this game at the highest level. This game is a very tough game. You live and learn in this game. This is my ninth season and I’m still learning.”

An RBI double in his first at-bat with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on April 5 was a step in the right direction. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for Reed, who has 10 in 31 at-bats. He is not making or taking time to think about statistics. His goal is build consistency to go along with his tenacity.

“I don’t think I’ve doubted myself, but there are times when you get down on yourself,” Reed said. “That was such a great opportunity (with the Giants) and I missed it. It is what it is. Hopefully I’ll get that chance again. As long as I have a jersey on my back, I have an opportunity.”