FRESNO -- Various shops are selling T-shirts that read: "21 for Heisman."
In fact, thousands of those same shirts were given away to fans attending last Saturday's Fresno State game against Utah State.
So what about the young man who wears that No. 21 for the Bulldogs?
What's he think of all the fuss?
"Oh, man, I'm not gettin' into all that," sighed running back Ryan Mathews in his patient, quiet voice. "That's my mom's deal. She's all over those T-shirts.
"I don't know how many she got or what she's doing with them, but I'm staying away."
Mathews has been at the center of a publicity whirlwind the past couple of weeks -- first, by responding directly to the question of whether he might skip his senior season in Fresno for the riches of the NFL, and then having to endure all this hype about the Heisman Trophy.
He gets it, though.
"It's the numbers," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to put up some numbers, and people notice."
Actually, Ryan, that's a bit of an understatement.
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound junior from Bakersfield leads the NCAA in rushing from here to Disney World. He's banged, dashed, darted, smashed and sprinted for 1,316 yards on 179 carries through eight games, an average of 164.5 per game -- and 7.4 per rush.
To put that per-game number in perspective, Mathews leads his closest pursuer -- the aptly named Darius Marshall of Marshall University -- by 28.5 yards.
Mathews is hardly your chest-thumping extrovert, so how is he coping with all the attention?
College football is littered with players who let publicity get into their heads, and wind up as sad underachievers.
"Honestly, I'd like to ignore all the NFL stuff, the Heisman shirts, all of that," Mathews admitted. "I have to stay grounded and remember that all this is about our football team.
"The season's not over. We have a big game coming up at Idaho (Saturday) and more tough ones after that. Hopefully, there will be a bowl game.
"This isn't exactly time for me to be thinking about any awards, or what happens next year. I've got to worry about the next play."
Mathews conceded, however, that putting the whole circus out of his head is almost impossible.
"Every time I walk across campus, there will be people who recognize me," he said with an odd expression, as though he's surprised to be noticed. "They'll say things about hoping I stay another year, or please don't leave. That kind of thing.
"So I'd be crazy to say I'm ignoring everything. How could you?"
Although he admits to hearing the praise and speculation, Mathews is quick to embrace reality concerning both a career in the NFL and any shot at the Heisman Trophy.
"I don't need to be reminded that anything can happen, that I could get injured," he said.
Mathews is also well aware that NFL teams, however much they admire his rare combination of size, speed, good hands and uncanny skill of shedding tackles, want to know how he'll hold up in a league where defenders are even bigger and faster than he sees at Fresno State.
"It's a legitimate question," he said. "I was hurt for about half a season each of my first two years. They want to know if I'm durable, if I can take the pounding that comes with playing running back."
Mathews understands the risks, but isn't particularly worried about getting hurt.
"Anything can happen," he said, "but I know how hard I've worked to be strong enough and tough enough for this.
"My freshman year, I knew I had the talent to play, but I didn't really know what the physical demands would be. I admit it. I didn't work hard enough to be in the condition I needed to be. Getting hurt that year was on me.
"Then last year, it was just a fluke. One of my linemen accidentally fell on the back of my knee. That's what I mean about how anything can happen.
"But I know I'm not 'injury-prone' or whatever else you want to call it. I can get hurt like anybody else, but I'm in shape to play my position."
Mathews proved that again by returning from a massive hit against Utah State to take every significant carry on two huge drives -- the one that gave Fresno State the lead and then the brutal possession that demanded pounding out a couple of first downs to clinch things in the final three minutes.
After recording just six carries for 40 yards in the first half, Mathews finished with 185 yards on 23 rushes and two more touchdowns.
So the Heisman T-shirts were appropriate.
Mathews has no illusions about actually winning the Heisman Trophy -- at least not this year.
"I mean, for a running back to win it at Fresno State -- or Boise or any other team in a non-BCS conference, two things would have to happen," Mathews said.
"First, you'd have to put up some ungodly numbers -- and you'd have to do it twice. The first year, eventually people outside the area would start to notice -- kind of like they are now -- so then you'd have some publicity and momentum for the next season, when you'd have to be huge again.
"But more than that, even, the team would have to be great. We'd have to run the table, or come pretty close. Get to the BCS.
"If those things happened, then...
"But it's not the same as a running back, say, going for 2,000 yards at Notre Dame. That would be an automatic Heisman candidate."
Well, Mathews certainly has rung up what he called "ungodly numbers" so far this season.
And if he returns for a senior year, Fresno State finally has a kind home schedule -- both Illinois and Cincinnati play the return games of their home-and-home contracts at Bulldog Stadium.
So Mathews would have several chances to shine in front of a national audience. And just as a bonus, Fresno State's entire offensive line should return intact.
"If I don't go (to the NFL), it could really be a lot of fun," Mathews said, laughing at last.
Any particular goal, then? Any number in his sights?
"For the team, win 'em all," he said. "But for me, personally?
"I'll run the football. I'm going to do what I was born to do."
Mom will have to handle the T-shirts.
Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist for the Sun-Star.