Red senior quarterback Jeff Mathews’ name continues to appear on pre-season award watch lists. But Mathews himself would be the first to say he would rather have his team’s name appear on postseason awards, specifically the Ivy League Championship trophy.
In terms of individual accomplishments, Mathews has done just about all there is to do on the collegiate level. He is Cornell’s all-time leading passer with 8,331 career yards and will almost surely become the Ivy’s all-time leader sometime mid-season. He was the first-ever sophomore to win the Bushnell Cup as Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011, and he earned runner-up honors last season.
In 2012, Mathews completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,196 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine starts.
As such, Mathews is one of 20 players on the Walter Payton Award watch list for national player of the year. JBScouting.com named Mathews a preseason first-team All-American for the Football Championship Subdivision level. Most recently, the record-setting quarterback was the only FCS player put on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list, a prestigious award previously won by Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003), Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007) and Andrew Luck (Stanford, 2011).
Nonetheless, the number ’10’ — Mathews’ win total in three years with the Red — bothers the focused gunslinger. Whispers that the NFL could come knocking are turning into real speculation, but Mathews is preoccupied with trying to win before graduating — ideally doubling his Cornell victories to 20 with an undefeated senior season.
“To be honest, I don’t really worry about [the NFL],” he said. “That’s not what’s important to me right now, it’s just to play with this team and try to win as much as we can. Hopefully at the end of the season that opportunity presents itself, but that’s not really something I worry about now.”
Mathews noted that his good friend and former teammate J.C. Tretter ’12, an offensive lineman drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round in April, set an example of how to ignore NFL distractions and keep them out of the locker room during the last campaign on campus.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be behind a guy like J.C. who did it the right way,” Mathews said. “As long as you focus on the right things it’s not hard to delay that [NFL] stuff. This could be my last time playing football, that’s how I’ve got to look at it. I’m excited to play for Cornell and thankful to have this opportunity.”
Plus, Mathews’ game, though spectacular, is not flawless. Subpar footwork played a role in many of his 29 career interceptions — on average one per game — so that is an area the signal caller has been working hard to improve in the offseason. Mobile quarterbacks are now the rule in the NFL, not the exception.
“You always try to break yourself down in the offseason and look where you can improve your game, and for me it all has to do with footwork — that’s the most important thing,” Mathews said. “I’ve spent a lot of time refining my footwork, getting help from the strength and conditioning program and doing a lot to help me get quicker. I’m trying to continue to get better.”
Original Author: Quintin Schwab