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For Berkeley's Jacob Mathis, football proves to be path to success

Jacob Mathis (4) WR/TE at Berkley Prep School on Tuesday, on May 5, 2015. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
Jacob Mathis (4) WR/TE at Berkley Prep School on Tuesday, on May 5, 2015. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
Published Dec. 30, 2015

ORLANDO — There was a time when Jacob Mathis thought if he was going to play in a national all-star game it would be as a basketball player. That was his main sport until he decided to try football as a freshman at Berkeley Prep.

It turned out to be a very good decision.

Mathis quickly took to the sport. By his sophomore year, he was the Bucs' top receiver as a tight end. At 6 feet 5, 225 pounds, he had the body and skills that drew Division I-A coaches from around the country. Mathis soon realized that football was his way into a top-notch college.

"I always thought I was going to go to college to play basketball," Mathis said. "I really didn't play any serious football until I was a freshman. Once I saw I had a pretty good future in football I took it upon myself to try to excel at it."

Mathis still excels at basketball. A four-year varsity starter, he averages 16.2 points per game as a senior for the 10-2 Bucs. But in college he will stick to football. More than 30 colleges have shown interest.

Mathis is considered a four-star recruit and the No. 10 ranked tight end in the country by several recruiting sites. As a senior, he had 29 catches for 506 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games played. In four years, Mathis played in 36 games and scored 29 touchdowns.

He said he has narrowed his college choices to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Michigan. He has made visits to all of those schools except Mississippi, where he has a trip planned on Jan. 29, the week before national signing day.

Unlike several other players at this week's Under Armour All-America Game, Mathis has not orally committed.

"I'll decide whenever I figure it out," he said.

His plan this week is to absorb as much as he can. He will play for Team Armour (Black), which includes Nate Craig-Myers of Tampa Catholic, Shavar Manuel (Blake and IMG Academy) and Savion Smith (Boca Ciega and IMG Academy). He decided on Dec. 9 to play in the game, later than most other players. The lure of facing other elite players, as well as a national television audience, convinced him.

"I decided to play here because you get to be around some of the other great athletes that always come here," Mathis said. "It's a nice community to be part of. Plus, it's not very far way."

On Monday, the first day players arrived for Saturday's game, Mathis looked comfortable as he joked with other players in the Orlando World Center Marriott. For some, the recruiting process can be a drain. Constant texts and tweets and visits from college coaches. The daily questions about where he's going to college.

But Mathis swears he's enjoying the process.

"It's been fun for me," he said. "It's been a great experience, especially something like this where you get to be around other guys in the same situation."

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