Talented Alberta high school athlete uses football and family to battle addiction

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WATCH: Matthias Mailer was one of the province’s top players for his age group in 2015. But an unexpected turn down a road of drugs and alcohol addiction temporarily derailed his football dreams. Brendan Parker details his path back to the sport he loves – Nov 3, 2017

A natural born athlete, Matthias Mailer found his calling on the football field.

“I just fell in love with the sport once I started playing games and I just had a huge passion for that sport because I was really good at it,” Matthias said.

Matthias was one of the top young players in the province for his age group, making the Calgary Bantam Football Association Selects team before the age of 15.

Matthias Mailer in 2015 as a member of the Calgary Selects team. Tanja Schlingmann

But as high school arrived, his passion slowly slipped into the background.

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“I started to hang around the wrong crowd, I started smoking and drinking and football was becoming a lesser priority for me,” he said.

That was the first red flag for his mother, Tanja Schlingmann, who is also a Calgary police officer.

“That’s when I noticed, because he stopped going to football. So that was a big clue for me,” she said.

The family was still dealing with the affects of a stroke Schlingmann suffered in March 2016. She then started to see several differences in her son.

The breaking point came on Dec. 2, 2016.

“He got apprehended or arrested at Walmart for shoplifting. And when I went to pick him up he was intoxicated,” she remembered.

“As a police officer, I’ve gone many times to shoplifters who have addiction or alcohol problems, so it kind of smacked me in the face that day.”

“Looking back on it now, it upsets me because I never really wanted that for myself, but that’s the path I went down and now I have to learn from my mistakes and grow from that,” Matthias said.

A lot of that growth happened at the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre in Calgary, where Matthias started treatment in January.

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“It’s given me my life back, like football, the thing that I love most. Like my family, our relationship is just wonderful.”

As he continued to work on his sobriety, the passion for football returned.

“His thing was, ‘I can’t wait to get back too football, Mom, I really can’t wait to get back to football,’ so as his treatment progressed and sobriety progressed it was all about the football.”

But after quitting mid-season the year before, Matthias had to make a phone call to his high school coach in Cochrane, Rob McNabb, asking to come back. A big step for a 16-year-old who had faced a lot of adversity to take.

“He did make that call and of course we welcomed him back with open arms because these kids are worth it and he deserves a second shot,” McNabb said.

Matthias is once again fully committed to football, starting on defence for the undefeated Cobras team.

“Going on that football field with all the rumours that had gone around and he did it all by himself, which to me was just an amazing feat and he’s just excelled from there,” Schlingmann said.

He also wants to use experience to help others who may be facing the same thing.

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“Everyone has an aspect in their life that can help someone else,” Matthias said. “I don’t try to push anything on anyone, if someone needs help I’m there for them.”

“I’m just trying to get somewhere with football, because that’s what I want in life.”

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