“I’m going to tell his story the rest of my life,” Winton Woods head coach Chad Murphy told Eleven Warriors.
Considering how early some high-profile recruits burst onto the national recruiting scene, Mathews was more of a late bloomer. The 6-foot, 175-pound cornerback didn’t play at the varsity level until his junior season. He was only considered a three-star recruit until receiving a ratings bump to a four-star talent earlier this summer.
But the last month is where Mathews picked up his most prestigious offers, including from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and of course, Ohio State. That’s not a coincidence considering his offseason workout program.
“He got to this point just being the athlete and the competitor that he is,” Murphy said. “He’s a high-character kid, he’s a worker, I think he does love the game. As soon as basketball was over this year, he just fell in love with the weight room. He’s really transformed his body in the last three or four months since hoops ended.”
Mathews’ life changed forever on June 1 when he decided to camp at Ohio State and fight like hell to earn an offer from the Buckeyes. Weighing whether or not he wanted to participate in another camp circuit, Mathews decided to go for it, because he didn’t want to look back on this summer years from now with regrets. There certainly won’t be any coming his way.
“It’s been different,” Mathews said recalling the last month. “The conversations with the people that I’ve met, it’s been great. I’ve taken it all in and don’t take any of it for granted.”
Mathews was not only the best defensive back of that day but arguably the best defensive back that participated in OSU’s seven one-day camp slate. He hardly ever lost a rep in one-on-ones, and had his own personal small cheering section of 10 or so current Ohio State football players, one of them being Winton Woods alumnus Miyan Williams.
“It was definitely a show to watch,” Williams said Friday while attending Mathews’ commitment ceremony. “If you weren’t there, you missed out. I (told OSU coaches), ‘Ya’ll seen enough?’”
Tim Walton certainly had. Shortly after the camp, Mathews received the offer from Ohio State he so desperately craved. It changed his recruitment overnight, and shortly after his official visit to OSU on June 17-19, he was ready to commit to the Buckeyes. Mathews called Walton, his primary recruiter from OSU, after his official to inform him of his decision.
“I have a great relationship with him, and I wanted him to be the first one to know up there,” Mathews said. “(OSU was) pumped. They were just as excited as I am to get started.”
A few weeks later, Mathews announced his commitment to the world.
“It’s just a place where I feel like I can succeed,” Mathews said of OSU. “They can help me on and off the field. It’s a great place for me.”
There might be some deja vu for Mathews when he finally arrives in Columbus in a year, as he could play one collegiate football season with Williams. He won’t get a chance to team up with other Winton Woods alum Jerron Cage, though, who will use his last season of eligibility with OSU this fall.
“It would be great,” Mathews said of potentially playing with Williams. “When I got here as a freshman, he was a senior, so he was on his way out. So it’s going to be great to connect back with him again.”
Mathews describes himself as a scrappy cornerback that can cover all around the field, make tackles and make plays. He’ll have an opportunity to play either on the outside or be a slot cornerback at the next level.
“I really think that the guy can be big time, I really do,” Murphy said. “I really think that he’s athletic and smart enough to play at corner, to play at nickel, or to play at safety. He’s a willing and able tackler, so the sky is the limit. He just has to keep grinding and being the guy that he is.”
But, first things first. Mathews will now focus on preparing to play his senior season at Winton Woods before arriving in Columbus. He’ll also need to learn the words to Ohio State’s fight song.
“I’m definitely going to learn them,” Mathews said with a smile.
Mathews was the fourth and final cornerback to join Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class, and the 16th commit in total. He said he’s been paying attention to the class the Buckeyes have built, which has kept fluctuating between No. 1 and No. 2 in the 247Sports national rankings with Notre Dame over the past few weeks.
“I’m excited,” Mathews said of OSU’s recruiting success. “We’re going for the natty. We want to win that thing. We’ve got a very good class building and we’re ready to do some things up there.
“We’re going to be part of the BIA like we already are, best in America. We’re going to come in and work every day.”