DETROIT - On Tuesday, four-star cornerback Dior Mathis became the fourth player in as many years from Detroit's Cass Technical School to be selected to play in the Army All-American Bowl. The 5-9, 175-pound Mathis knew, however, that his school's history with the Army Bowl would not be enough to secure his selection.
"Whatever it took to get there, he did it," noted Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher. "No matter how late he had to stay after school working on the field, he did it."
Wilcher previously had class of 2007 prospect Joseph Barksdale, Class of 2008 prospect Boubacar Cissoko and Class of 2009 prospect William Campbell selected to the game from his team. He knows what it takes to be an Army All-American and feels Mathis embodies all those traits.
"He has the speed you are looking for, the quickness and the one-on-one coverage ability you need in that game," Wilcher said. "He also has the discipline you need to be a good player. He's aware of his surroundings, has good social skills and also he is a very polite young man."
According to Mathis, the path to his Army Bowl selection began three years ago when he first watched Barksdale participate in the game. Part of his plan to achieve his goal of playing in the game included participating in the U.S. Army Junior Combine last January.
"It took real hard work and dedication for three years just to prepare for the camp," Mathis said. "Going down there I had to prove something because just because my teammates had made it doesn't mean they are just going to give me a selection."
Mathis went out and earned first team all-combine honors from Rivals.com for his play at the Junior Combine. Now that his hard work has paid off in the form of a selection, he is proud of what has been accomplished.
"Being an Army All-American is real big. It feels wonderful because it feels like I am a part of history and part of a tradition at my school," Mathis said. "Watching Barksdale, Boubacar and Will, it made me realize this is something I want to be a part of and I'm so happy I achieved it."
Mathis also earned his selection with his play this fall for Cass Tech. The Technicians faced a situation where they needed to win their final three games of the regular season just to make the playoffs. After accomplishing that feat, they pulled off a first round upset of top-ranked Dearborn Fordson before falling to rival Detroit Southeastern in the district finals.
On the season, Mathis recorded six interceptions and 15 pass breakups from his cornerback position. He also recorded 680 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns while adding three rushing scores. According to Wilcher, though, some of Mathis' best work does not show up on a stat sheet.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that when the ball is not coming your way, you're doing a good job," Wilcher said. "When the ball did come his way, he picked it off, so that was great for us."
The Army Bowl holds added significance for Mathis because he plans to announce his college decision during the game. He has pared his list of more than two dozen scholarship offers to just a handful of teams and will take several visits between now and when he departs for San Antonio. This coming weekend, Mathis will make an unofficial visit to Michigan State and his first official visit will take place on Dec. 2 to Oregon.
"Oregon and Michigan State are sitting at the top right now," Mathis reported. "Michigan I am still considering and I've talked to a couple people from Tennessee, but really it is just Michigan, Michigan State and Oregon."
After all the hard work it took to reach his goal of being an Army All-American, Mathis does not plan to rest on his laurels when he arrives in San Antonio. He plans to use the game as a showcase of his skills.
"The goal is to have fun first, but at the same time I am going down there as a real big competitor and I do want to do good at the game," Mathis said. "I want to show college coaches what they are going to be seeing for the next four years on TV. I'm going to work hard to play against the best 90 players in the country."