Tough Decisions Already Coming to Fruition for Jake Matthews

Back during Jake Matthews’ senior year at Ironwood Ridge, he seemed to have had the world at his finger tips. 

He was coming off of an incredible football season that saw his Nighthawks win their first ever state championship in Division II. By the end of football season, he had scholarship offers to play football from all the service academies as well as some Division I-AA schools. But another major passion in his life led to some great notoriety.  A remarkable baseball season that led him to being selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 38th round in 2013 MLB Draft.

Amongst all of those options, there was one offer that stood out to Matthews that didn’t offer a scholarship or a signing bonus at the professional level. It was joining the Arizona Wildcats football program as a recruited walk-on. 

“After that [state championship] game, I was really stoked and then it was time for baseball season and the scouts really came rolling in both professionally and collegiately,” Matthews said. “I went through it all and I really liked the offer here (Arizona), the recruited walk-on offer that I had here because Coach (Jeff) Casteel and Coach (Rich) Rodriguez were so convincing. And they seemed like coaches that would really make you a better person.”

So it was off to his cross-town university for Matthews to begin the next chapter of his life. From the moment he first stepped foot on campus, he immediately turned heads. Instead of being issued a red shirt or being placed on the scout team with most walk-ons, he was in uniform for every game in 2013 which saw him play in eight games as a linebacker as well as on special teams.

Now as 2014 is underway, Matthews continues to climb the depth chart and has spent a lot of time through camp and practices as well as on the field running with the first team defense at outside linebacker. 

“I think it was hard work these last two years that have really helped me and not thinking of myself as a walk-on,” Matthews explained. “Most of the players find out I am a walk-on and they are like ‘oh really?’ It’s not a big deal at all.”

Prior to the season, Rich Rod was asked who was going to be this season’s Scooby Wright. Meaning who was going to be the player for the Wildcats who comes out of no where to have a breakout season. Rodriguez didn’t hesitate to mention Matthews who just so happens to play the same position on the same side of the ball as Wright.

“It’s a big honor,” Matthews mentioned. “It’s always nice to know that your coaches believe in you. And I know my coaches believe in me and that helps me with my confidence when I’m playing.”

Rodriguez took a shot at the NCAA during fall camp expressing displeasure with the rule that states that walk-on’s cannot be issued scholarships until their third year with the program without losing a scholarship in the process from incoming recruiting classes. For Matthews, just being mentioned for something like that means enough.

“Again it’s an honor that he is trying to do that for me and it would be nice to be on one [scholarship],” stated Matthews. “But you can’t control what you cant control and you just have to play. You can’t worry about that stuff during the season.”

It has been a goal for Matthews to be on the field for the Wildcats since long before he arrived on campus. So not that he is in position to make a big impact, what now?

“Personally, I want to do whatever it takes to help my team win and I have to do that by playing obviously,” Matthews said. “And I think I have a good shot so that is what I am striving for.”

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