UT cornerback Trevon Mathis (6) started all 13 games as a junior last season, making 44 tackles. BLADE/JETTA FRASER
University of Toledo senior cornerback Trevon Mathis welcomed the addition of new cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat.
The two knew each other from when Mathis played high school football at Woodland Hills in Pittsburgh. At the time, Poteat was a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh and helped recruit Mathis.
With a relationship already established, the two have developed an even tighter bond during the offseason.
“I look at him not just as a coach, but a father figure and a mentor,” Mathis said. “He also helped me on a spiritual level get to where I need to be. On the days when I may be down, I always go and talk to him. He’ll always get me back on track, and help me stay the course and not to focus too much on myself but other things around me. It’s been a great ride so far.”
After spending the past two seasons as cornerbacks coach for Kent State, Poteat said he had a good impression of Mathis when he came to Toledo.
“He went to a couple of our camps when I was at Pitt,” Poteat said. “I know that he is a guy that is very coachable. He works hard and is a student of the game. He is a guy that has played a lot of football. He’s been playing ever since freshman year.
“He’s a guy that a lot of people look up to and a guy who is a leader on defense. That’s something I knew about him. I’m expecting a lot out of him. We are going to put a lot on him, but I think he is capable of accepting the challenge.”
Mathis played in 13 games as a freshman for the Rockets and 11 as a sophomore before starting all 13 games as a junior last season. Mathis has shown he can compete at a high level, and Poteat is working with him to perfect his craft as a cornerback.
“We really are just working on him being consistent with his play,” Poteat said. “He has all the tools. One of the things I wanted to be able to work on is just trying to use his hands more and just using that athletic ability that he has.
“He’s a guy that is very explosive and he can jump out of the gym. He has a really good vertical. With a guy with his length, speed, and quickness, there is no reason why he can’t go up and get his hands on the ball more. It’s just about taking advantage of those gifts that you have and using them to your advantage.”
Poteat brings with him a ton of football experience from his 10-year playing career in the NFL to his time coaching in college football.
So far, the Toledo defensive backs have benefitted from his wealth of knowledge.
“He’s like a mentor for us,” Mathis said. “Coaching everybody is different, and he knows how to relate to everybody. I feel like everybody is embracing him pretty well. He uses a lot of coach [Bill] Belichick’s philosophies with us from when he was on the Patriots. It’s definitely helping all of us become better players.”
With fall camp underway, Mathis is striving to stay focused on the process during his final season in a Rockets uniform.
“It’s the last one, so the attention to details is more critical, and the day-by-day process is big,” Mathis said. “I’m just trying to embrace it and live in the moment.”
From day one, Mathis has bought into what Poteat has been preaching to his players and has been able to soak up his advice, football-related or otherwise.
“I feel like I have a platform, and my purpose in life is to help mentor young men,” Poteat said. “I feel like Trevon has come on immediately on just absorbing and receiving all the information that I have.
“He’s really been open to some of the things I’ve been able to talk to him about, whether it is faith, football, family, or work ethic. He’s somebody that wants to be the complete man, not only as a football player. Any advice I can give him, he is always willing to take that and try to apply that to his life.”
Mathis UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO