CINCINNATI — Jermaine Mathews Jr. thinks about being a senior every time he takes to the football field at Winton Woods High School.
“Every time I think it’s the last time I do something,” Mathews said. “My God, this is about to be my last first game next Friday.”
Mathews doesn’t want to take anything for granted. But he has goals to accomplish before he swaps a Winton Woods jersey for Ohio State football gear in January as the first registrant.
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Before officially joining the Buckeyes, Mathews wants to leave as the best player to ever play football at Winton Woods.
“I want to be the best defensive back that’s come out here because there’s been a lot of greats that have come out here,” Mathews said. “I want our class to be the best class to ever come through here. I want to win another state championship.
“I want to do all kinds of things just to be remembered.”
Jermaine Mathews Jr. was next in Winton Woods
Chad Murphy had an idea that Mathews was next in sophomore year. He had just two Division I corners ahead of him.
Tamarion Crumpley, who is now in Pittsburgh, and Caleb Tubbs, who is now in Maryland, started ahead of Mathews in 2020 as seniors. Both were players Mathews looked up to, considering their training habits and technique.
For Murphy, it’s normal. That’s how he helped build Winton Woods: a program he says prides itself on the idea of the sharpening iron.
On the contrary, Murphy said, it only helped prepare Mathews for the next level.
“I think he’s ready,” Murphy said. “I think he got to see the Division I kids in front of him. He knows what it looks like. He’s done a great job of getting out there and seeing places and rubbing shoulders with these guys who are already playing Power 5 football so he can compete.
Starting alongside three-star cornerback and Cincinnati commit Cameron Calhoun, Mathews finished his junior season with 44 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and five interceptions, adding two punt return touchdowns on special teams.
He was named to the All-Eastern Cincinnati Conference first team.
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“He’s super, super talented,” Murphy said. “Very nervous, very dynamic and just a playmaker. He doesn’t go too high, doesn’t go too low. He’s pretty balanced. And he’s an ultimate competitor. That’s the best home. He’s not afraid of anyone.”
As an Ohio State pledge, Mathews knows he’s in the same place for the younger members of Winton Woods’ roster that Crumpley and Tubbs were for him. His word carries weight for players who want to be better than he was in high school.
“I feel like I’m like an alpha male,” Mathews said. “I feel like I’ve always been someone that people have always looked up to in every team I’ve been on. But now that I’m in the spotlight, it comes more into the light .
Jermaine Mathews Jr.’s mentality caught Ohio State’s attention
Mathews was one of the first players Tim Walton contacted when he first arrived at Ohio State.
During the first few months of the secondary coach and cornerbacks job, all he could see live from Winton Woods cornerback was what he could do on the basketball court.
As he grew up as a basketball player, playing in the AAU and most recently winning ECC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, the big picture of Mathews’ success has remained on the football field with offers. from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State and Jackson. The state began to enter.
But on the hardwood, Mathews has the same mentality he has on the football pitch.
“I feel like wherever I play, I want to be the best,” Mathews said. “So I try to dominate. I play hard.
This mentality caught the attention of Ohio State, offering Mathews after camping out with the Buckeyes on June 1 and signing a month later.
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It’s a mentality that hasn’t stopped as Mathews prepares for his senior season, continuing to hone his technique as he prepares to play a role in every position in the defensive backfield, whether at cornerback, nickel or safety.
Mathews isn’t the first football player from Winton Woods to make the jump to Ohio State, joining redshirt second-year running back Miyan Williams and fifth-year senior defensive tackle Jerron Cage. He knows the kind of attention the Buckeyes bring.
But the only thing different for Mathews heading into his senior season is that more eyes will be on him.
“I’m still going to play my game,” Mathews said.
For Murphy, this approach to the game is why he isn’t worried about Mathews transitioning to the college level.
“Man, he’s the type of guy who’s ready to come in as a potential recruit and do his thing early,” Murphy said.