DeMarcus Matthews is an example of a diamond in the rough who panned out. Despite a late start to his football career, Matthews' raw ability and athleticism have enabled him to emerge as a force on Friday nights.
Still, Sterlington head coach Jason Thompson can't help but wonder how far along the senior defensive end would be if he was more polished.
“DeMarcus is still an untapped commodity,” Thompson said. “His football (fundamentals) and his body are under developed because he's only been at it for a little over a year.”
Matthews was an eighth grader by the time he strapped on a pair of shoulder pads for the first time while living in Texas. Moving to Sterlington the summer prior to his freshman year, Matthews opted to devote his full attention to basketball.
After sitting out two years, he decided to take another stab at football as a junior. Quickly nailing down a starting spot at defensive end, Matthews was a first-team All-District 2-2A selection.
Just six games into the 2013 season, Matthews has already matched or exceeded his 2012 stats in every category. Thus far this season, he has logged 47 tackles, with five sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick.
From a recruiting standpoint, Matthews remains a virtual unknown, though Thompson says he could be a steal on National Signing Day.
“DeMarcus is a super kid with a great work ethic, who if given the chance, can play at the next level,” Thompson said of the 6-3, 220-pound Matthews. “He has the God-given talent and the God-given body that can still hold a lot of extra weight. He has a lot of upside; a high ceiling.”
NOWN: When did you start playing football?
DeMarcus Matthews: I played in the eighth grade in Killen, Texas, skipped two years and started playing here.
NOWN: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of football?
Matthews: My favorite part is coming out here, having fun every day and getting to play the sport that I love.
I don't really have a least favorite part.
Page 2 of 3 - NOWN: Why did you decide to come out for football as a junior?
Matthews: I had always wanted to play and see what it was like, but I was focusing on basketball. I felt like basketball wasn't working out for me at the time, so I decided it was time to try football.
NOWN: What has been the keys to the Panthers' fast start this season?
Matthews: Mainly, working hard every day in practice and the coaches staying on us.
NOWN: What impact has the 5-1 start had on the team's confidence?
Matthews: We're playing with more confidence, which allows us to play the game with more speed.
We believe in each other. Coach Pat (Washington) keeps telling us in practice that we're all brothers. If one of us messes up, we all run.
You want to play every game like it's your last game, so you won't have any regrets.
NOWN: How has the student body reacted to the Panthers' success?
Matthews: They're real excited. People are are always congratulating us and wanting to talk to us about the game.
Last year, it was, “When are ya'll going to get a win,” so it's a nice change.
NOWN: What challenges does Winnfield's offense present for Sterlington's defense?
Matthews: They're real big and real strong up front, so we have to come out aggressive and win the line of scrimmage.
NOWN: What are the hardest hits you have received and delivered?
Matthews:The hardest I've ever been hit was in the Benton game, our first game this year. I was coming off of a square and the quarterback handed off to the running back and he started running right at me. I tackled him too high and his helmet caught me right in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me.
Page 3 of 3 - My hardest hit was in the OCS game. Coach (Thompson) called a blitz for me. The man who was supposed to pick me up took on a wrong assignment and I sacked the quarterback and caused a fumble.
NOWN: What are you going to miss the most about playing high school football?
Matthews: Just being out here every day with my teammates and coaches. I'm going to miss that Sterlington atmosphere and spirit.
NOWN: Outside of football, what is something you hope to accomplish during your senior year?
Matthews: I just want to do better on my grades and overcome my math struggles.
NOWN: What do you like best about attending Sterlington High?
Matthews: I love the community and the bond that I have with my teammates, coaching staff and friends.
NOWN: What are your future plans?
Matthews: I plan to join the Army Reserves, then go to work off shore on an oil rig.
NOWN: How did you become interested in working off shore?
Matthews: I have an uncle (Carl Matthews) who has been working off shore for 23 years and he makes pretty good money. He's always told me that if you want something, you have to work for it. By working off shore and being in the Reserves, I feel like I can make something out of myself and still serve the United States.