MCGILL: Patient Mathews Proves He Belongs
The Word on the Herd -- Nov. 14, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In February of 2015, before Nick Mathews graduated from Patriot High School in Nokesville, Virginia, he was interviewed by the Washington Post about his decision to accept a preferred walk-on offer from Marshall University.
Mathews had completed his high school career as a first team All-Met wide receiver and the Virginia High School League record holder for receptions in a season (102). He was surrounded on the All-Met team by FBS-bound talent, and wondered why he hadn’t garnered more interest from college football programs.
“I’ve seen major D-I talent,” he told the Washington Post, “and I believe I can compete with them.”
Mathews’ performance in Marshall’s 30-23 win against Western Kentucky last Saturday is proof the diminutive receiver’s belief in himself was not misguided. Of course, he’d been proving himself within the Thundering Herd program since the day the 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior stepped on campus. That’s why he is now on scholarship, and he set new career highs for receptions (four) and receiving yards (46) in his breakout game.
“Nick Mathews, man,” MU quarterback Chase Litton said as he searched for his words of praise. “The play he made when he ran a climb concept, third down, that’s a big-time play. That keeps us on the field and keeps the drive going.”
Mathews had not caught a pass during the 2017 season as junior college transfer Marcel Williams held down the spot in the slot for the first team. Williams entered last Saturday’s game as the second-leading receiver for the Herd (40 receptions for 496 yards and two touchdowns), and his two most recent performances were both career bests for receiving yards.
But Mathews remained patient. When Williams exited with an injury, there was an opportunity.
“It’s tough to get a guy like that all of these touches because you have a guy like Marcel in front of him,” Litton said. “He’d be starting anywhere else. He’s a tremendous kid; he’s a hell of an athlete. For Nick to step in and not get any first team reps, really all season, that’s big-time ball.”
Mathews made his four catches on three different scoring drives. He caught a second-and-8 pass from Litton for a first down, a third-and-10 ball for 16 yards and a first down and made a second-and-four snag for 10 yards and a first down. The drives in which Mathews caught a pass led to 17 points for the Herd.
“You can’t say enough about a guy like Nick Mathews, who hasn’t played a lot of football around here,” said Ryan Yurachek, a senior tight end. “He got in there and played as well as anybody expected him to play.”
Mathews landed at Marshall after impressing in a camp. He received the walk-on invitation and challenged himself to become a player who could compete at the FBS level. In the spring, head coach Doc Holliday awarded Mathews a scholarship.
“I bought into the program,” Mathews said. “I listened in the weight room and got bigger, faster and stronger.”
The “bigger” part is a challenge for Mathews. He continuously consumes calories to offset the constant motion of the football season.
“During the season is the hardest because of all the running we do,” he said. “I eat everything and anything. It’s eat, eat, eat. I try to eat as much as I possibly can’t. It doesn’t matter what it is.”
Whatever he does, it worked when Mathews received his opportunity against WKU. Mathews nearly eclipsed his career totals in one game. Entering Saturday night, he had five career receptions for 47 yards, including only one catch as a sophomore.
Now, the former walk-on has made a case for more playing time, and showed he believed what he said in 2015.
“Once you get on campus, it’s not about how many offers you have or the stars or the ratings,” Mathews said. “It’s about how you play and perform.”