Nov. 4, 2013
Mathews Continuing to Make Noise
Junior Derrick Mathews Leads Defensive Unit for Cougars
Written by: Matthew Bodiford
In 2011 the Houston Football team reached new levels of success. With a record-breaking offense and a team that set a school record in wins, it was a season that was meant to be remembered. With a team that was filled with star-studded names, there was one player that made a quiet statement.
Derrick Mathews started all 14 games as a freshman in 2011. Not only was Mathews awarded to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team he was also selected as a College Football News Freshman All-American. As a freshman, Mathews collected over 100 tackles and led all freshmen in interceptions. With such an impressive start to his career most wondered how this freshman got off to such a hot start.
"As a freshman I was just trying to be the best player I could be," said Mathews. "I had great mentors in Marcus McGraw, and Phillip Steward. They taught me how to be a linebacker at this level and I worked hard to learn as much as I could from them."
Mathews was so impressive as a freshman that his teammate next to him took notice. Marcus McGraw played with him during the 2011 season and talked about how great of a competitor Mathews was.
"He was a guy who was hungry to learn," McGraw said. "He was dedicated to being the best for the team and it showed. I knew he had a very bright future ahead of him."
His sophomore year was anything but a slump. He started in all 12 games for the Cougars and was a Conference USA Honorable Mention selection. As Mathews continued to mark his legacy at Houston as an underclassman most were wondering how the Freshman All American would handle being a leader on the defensive side of the football.
During this 2013 season, Mathews has already shown how he planned on stepping into that role. He has elevated his game to an even higher level since that remarkable freshman year. So far for the Cougars Mathews has 67 tackles in seven games. If that wasn't impressive enough on homecoming against BYU he added an interception, which he took 29 yards to the house. Mathews has proven in his career at Houston that he has the potential to be one of the best, but his lead by example mentality is what drives him.
"I'm more about letting my performance on the field speak for me. If I do my job then it sets the tone for the defense to continue playing at a high level," he stated.
The once young pup at linebacker has now turned himself into a veteran leader on his squad. So far this season, Mathews and his defense lead the country in turnover margin. The defensive impact has been noticeable, but the way they have wreaked havoc is what's turning heads. The tenacity of forcing a turnover in crucial situations has put the entire team in position to win football games. So what has been the difference for Mathews this year than years past? All signs point to leadership.
"I do feel like I've taken on more of a leadership role this season," noted Mathews. "Me being an upperclassman now I know it's my responsibility to make the defense fire on all cylinders. In years past it's always been about the offense, but now we want people around the country to respect us as a defensive unit."
It's not hard to see that the leader of the defense is No. 49. Not only does Mathews lead the team in tackles, he also is single handedly responsible for nine points scored for his team.
As a guy who first arrived to campus from North Shore high school, Mathews has solidified himself as one of the top linebackers in the nation and continues to grow with each game. The defensive mentality starts with the man in the middle. It's safe to say that his freshman year wasn't a fluke. The leader of the Houston Defense is the real deal. To sum it all up Mathews is a guy who was meant to play this game.