Jermaine Mathews Jr. wants to be remembered as he prepares for Ohio State football

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

CINCINNATI — Jermaine Mathews Jr. thinks about being a senior each time he takes the football field at Winton Woods High School. 

“Every time, I think about how it’s the last first time I do something,” Mathews said. “Golly it’s 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 trades a Winton Woods jersey for Ohio State football gear in January as an early enrollee. 

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Before he officially joins the Buckeyes, Mathews wants to leave as the best player to have ever played football at Winton Woods. 

“I want to be the best defensive back that ever left here because there have been a lot of great ones that came 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 a whole bunch of things just to be remembered.” 

Jermaine Mathews Jr. was next in line at Winton Woods

Chad Murphy had an idea Mathews was next in line as a sophomore. He just had two Division I corners in front of him. 

Tamarion Crumpley, who is now at Pittsburgh, and Caleb Tubbs, who is now at Maryland, started ahead of Mathews in 2020 as seniors. Both were players Mathews looked up to, taking in their practice habits and technique. 

For Murphy, this is normal. It’s how he’s helped build Winton Woods: a program he said that has prided itself on the idea  of iron sharpening iron. 

If anything, Murphy said, it’s only helped Mathews prepare for the next level. 

Cincinnati Winton Woods defensive back Jermaine Mathews Jr. nearly picks off a pass intended for Hoban receiver Rickey Williams, bottom, during the first half of the OHSAA Division II state title game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Canton, Ohio.

“I think he’s ready,” Murphy said. “I think he’s been able to see Division I kids ahead of him. He knows what it looks like. He did a great job of getting out and seeing places and being around those guys already playing Power 5 football so he can measure himself.” 

Starting next to 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 first-team All-Eastern Cincinnati Conference.

Ohio State recruitingJermaine Mathews Jr. of Winton Woods football commits to Ohio State Buckeyes

“He’s super, super talented,” Murphy said. “Very twitchy, very dynamic and just a playmaker. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. He’s pretty even-keeled. And he’s an ultimate competitor. That’s the best part about him. He’s not scared of anybody.” 

As an Ohio State commit, Mathews knows he’s in the same place for younger members of the Winton Woods roster that Crumpley and Tubbs were to him. His word carries weight for players who want to be better than he was at the high school level. 

“I feel like I’m just like an alpha male,” Mathews said. “I feel like I’ve always just been somebody that people always looked up to in any of the teams that I have been on. But now that I am getting the spotlight, it’s coming more to the light.” 

Jermaine Mathews Jr.'s mentality got the attention of Ohio State

Mathews was one of the first players Tim Walton contacted when he first got to Ohio State. 

In the secondary and cornerbacks coach’s first months on the job, all he could see live from the Winton Woods cornerback was what he could do on the basketball court. 

While he grew up as a basketball player, playing AAU and most recently winning ECC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, Mathews’ big picture of success remained on the football field as offers from from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State and Jackson State started to roll in. 

But on the hardwood, Mathews has the same mentality he has on the football field. 

“I feel like wherever I play, I want to be the best at it,” Mathews said. “So I try and dominate. I play hard.”

That mentality got the attention of Ohio State, offering Mathews after he camped with the Buckeyes June 1 and committing a month later. 

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It’s a mentality that hasn’t stopped as Mathews prepares for his senior season, continuing to perfect his technique as he prepares to have a role at every position in the defensive backfield, whether it’s at cornerback, nickel or safety. 

Mathews is not the first Winton Woods football player to make the jump to Ohio State, joining redshirt sophomore running back Miyan Williams and fifth-year senior defensive tackle Jerron Cage. He knows the kind of attention being associated with the Buckeyes brings. 

Winton Woods rising senior Jermaine Mathews Jr. announced July 1 he would be joining former Warriors running back Miyan Williams with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

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.

To Murphy, this approach to the game is why he’s not worried about Mathews’ transition to the college level. 

“Man, this is the kind of guy that’s ready to come in as a potential freshman and do his thing early,” Murphy said.

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