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As we all learn eventually, life has a way of throwing us curves and changing our best-laid plans.

The test of a person's character and fortitude comes in learning to adapt to those changes.

UTSA junior defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry came face to face with that reality two years ago when he transferred from Oklahoma State to help care for his mother, who was in failing health after suffering a stroke.

Mabry enrolled in summer school as a freshman at OSU in July 2011, two months after graduating from MacArthur, but he left Stillwater and returned to San Antonio after only two weeks.

OSU coach Mike Gundy granted Mabry a release to transfer, making him eligible to play at UTSA immediately.

Under different circumstances, Mabry would be preparing to line up against the Roadrunners in a nationally televised game on Saturday at the Alamodome.

Instead, he'll start for UTSA (1-0) when it kicks off against No. 13 OSU (1-0) in its home opener at 11 a.m.

I'm still friends with a lot of them, but not while we're on the field, Mabry said when asked if he's kept in touch with some of the players he met during his brief stay at OSU. After the game, I'll talk to them. But everything before the game, during the game, it's a different mindset.

Corchelle Mabry, whose health has improved in the past two years, will be there to cheer on the youngest of her three sons.

She's doing a lot better, Mabry said.

Mabry's mother has attended every UTSA home game

Corchelle Mabry was battling cancer and hypertension when Ashaad left home to start college.

It was a series of things that kind of went downhill, he said. Soon before I went up to OSU, she had a stroke. When I was up there, I came down for a weekend and she wasn't looking good. I found out she wasn't taking her pills. Once I got back to OSU, football wasn't on my mind for a second, so I had to come back down.

While Corchelle Mabry tried to talk Ashaad into staying at OSU, he already had made up his mind to return home.

I know she wanted me to (stay at OSU), but when I talked to her, I could just feel that something was wrong in her voice, Mabry said. Actually, when I got back down here she was really excited. She said, 'You know, I'd love for you to stay up there, but I love that you're here with me and I love that you made that sacrifice for me.' When I got here, she was just so excited that she could come to every home game and not have a problem.

Corchelle Mabry has attended every UTSA home game since the Roadrunners' inaugural season two years ago. She and Ashaad's father, Inard Mabry, divorced in 1995.

Ashaad means the world to me and I'm so proud of him, Corchelle said. When he decided he wanted to leave Oklahoma State, I was torn because I knew he always had wanted to play at a big school. I felt guilty because he was letting go of his dream, but he made it clear to me he wanted to come back home.

Corchelle, who lost her job and health insurance recently, choked back tears as she talked about the support she has gotten from Ashaad while she's been ill.

When I had surgery in February for a cancerous growth I had on an elbow, Ashaad was there in the recovery room, waiting for me to wake up, Corchelle said. We're very close.

Mabry had to change atttude when he transferred to UTSA

Mabry, 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, played in all 22 games his freshman and sophomore seasons at UTSA. Although Mabry started in six games, there was a growing concern among his coaches that he was an underachiever.

When I first got here, I hated it here, Mabry said.

His mother knew what the problem was and didn't hesitate to point it out to Mabry.

He was cocky, Corchelle said. He thought that just because he had transferred from a Big 12 school, he was just going to have things given to him at UTSA. I told him he had to earn it.

Mabry acknowledges now that the main problem his first two seasons was his sense of entitlement after he transferred to UTSA, which recruited him heavily when he was a standout at MacArthur.

Honestly, when I came here I just had the wrong mindset, he said. I thought coming from a Big 12 school, I would come in and start with no problems, do what I want. It's just been a huge humbling experience to change my attitude.

Mostly when I got here, I was thinking to myself, you know, 'It's the coaches. The coaches don't want me to play. I know what I can do.' I had to change it and say, 'Ashaad, it's you. You're the one who's not doing what they tell you. You're the one who's not moving like you should.' The first day I watched film, I said, 'Is that me moving that slow? It was a very humbling experience.

Mabry turned the corner this past spring when he finally bought into the UTSA defensive system and started holding himself accountable.

I had to work on my feet a little, but I think it's mostly attitude, Mabry said. I was just like, 'Enough is enough, Ashaad. You've got to get it together.

Mabry has become leader for UTSA defense

Mabry has done just that, becoming a force and a leader on a defensive line that is one of UTSA's strengths.

He had four tackles in the Roadrunners' 21-13 victory against New Mexico in their season opener last Saturday, and played a key role in holding Lobos running back Kasey Carrier to 54 yards and 2.7 yards per carry.

He's been awesome this year, really has, UTSA defensive coordinator Neal Neathery said. He's come a long way. He's always physically been very capable, but just his attitude and even how he feels just walking in the door of a classroom has changed dramatically in a very, very good way.

He was never a bad kid. He just wasn't probably fully into it, and probably wasn't as positive a presence to have around as he is right now. Now he's a leader. He playing really well and how he acts is showing on the field, too.

Given his size and strength, Mabry is a load for any offensive lineman to handle.

He's extremely strong, Neathery said. He's got incredible natural strength. He's really hard to move. That's very, very effective inside. He was very good (last) Saturday. Our interior really played well.

If not for his mother's health problems, Mabry would be in his third season at OSU and playing for a team favored to win the Big 12 championship.

It's a big change, Mabry said. I really would have been excited to play there, but I love it here. I'm very excited to play here for this team against that team, or any team we're going to play. I think it's a great choice overall.

Corchelle said it's been gratifying to see Mabry find happiness at UTSA.

I don't even know what words to use to describe how I feel as far as his accomplishments, she said. But the thing I'm proudest of is that he recognized his weaknesses, like working on his attitude, and has totally grown up the past two years. He's a man now.

And a heck of a football player.
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