Scout.com rates Mathews the 27th best defensive end in the nation. He is considered a "four star" recruit. Syracuse, Michigan, Ohio State, Boston College and Rutgers were amongst the school that offered him scholarships. McKenzie collected 39 sacks his final two seasons leading Christian Brothers Academy to a 24-1 mark during that span.
Mathews was quick to relay the funny story behind his commitment. "Pitt's Graduate Assistant Jeff Ambroise is a big part of the reason I chose the Panthers," he said. "Jeff went to my school and he was one of my main contacts. He answered the phone and really wanted to know if I was going to commit. I wouldn't tell him and you could hear him going nuts. They told me he was sweating."
"Jeff walked into a room and handed the phone to Coach (David) Walker. I insisted they put me on speaker phone. I told them I was committing to the University of Pittsburgh and you could hear Jeff clapping and dancing in the background. It was really funny."
"I think I caught Coach (Dave) Wannstedt coming out of the shower when I spoke with him. He was very excited about my commitment. Coach had all of the other assistant coaches come into the room and all of them were cheering. It was a great moment."
Mathews was named first-team All-New York Class AA as a senior after registering 106 tackles, 30 tackles for losses and 26 sacks. He is capable of running a 4.7 forty-yard dash. When asked about his freshman year, he stated, "I was told I might get some solid playing time. I realize Pitt recruiting three other defensive ends and they have a few older players. I'm going to have to work hard and compete."
"Pitt needs pass rushers and that's what I do best. I use my speed to get past linemen. Right now I weigh 230 pounds and I realize I need to bulk up. I'll hit the gym four times a week, but my goal is to retain my speed. It's my main asset."
Recruiting scouts have compared Mathews to Indianapolis Colts standout defensive end Dwight Freeney. McKenzie commented on the comparisons. "It's an honor to be compared to someone like that. I would say I have a similar pass rushing style but he's scary fast. I don't have his speed," he said.
Mathews completed five official visits to Ohio State (10/15), Pitt (12/2), Michigan (12/9), Boston College (1/20) and Syracuse (1/27). He's a bright and articulate young man with a 3.1 grade point average and a solid 1160 score on the SAT.
"It's great to be part of such a highly rated class. We're going to be the recruiting class to put the Panthers on the map. My decision was made easier knowing that I was coming in with a ton of great players. Pitt seems like it's going to have a great future. I have a good feeling just being part of it."
Mathews is the fourth defensive end to join the Panthers stellar 2006 recruiting class. Justin Hargrove (Baldwin, PA), Greg Romeus (Coral Glades, FL) and Tyler Tkach (Slatington, PA) also signed with the Panthers.
Harry G. Psaros can be contacted at email@example.com.