Orlando native no UF fan
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2007 at 7:35 p.m.
ORLANDO — Michigan wide receiver Greg Mathews can be thankful for one thing on this New Year's Day. He has some very gracious teammates.
Mathews, a former Parade All-American at Orlando's Edgewater High School, will have a large crowd cheering for him today when Michigan faces Florida in the Capital One Bowl at the Citrus Bowl.
To account for the high demand for tickets, Mathews has been busy collecting extra tickets from his teammates for today's game. Mathews said he has more than 30 tickets for his family and friends.
"My teammates are real generous," he said. "Some of them are from far away places. So they've been helping out, giving me their tickets."
It's been a fun week for Mathews, who is enjoying a break-out sophomore season. Mathews has caught 32 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Now, he is home again, back in the warm Florida air, preparing to play in his hometown.
"It feels like high school again," Mathews said. "You go to practice. Go home and relax. I feel at home. It's cool."
Even though Mathews went to high school in Central Florida, his family's ties are to the Big Ten. Mathews' mother is from Columbus, Ohio. His cousin is former Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr. Interestingly, Mathews decided to carve his own path growing up. He decided to become a Michigan fan in an Ohio State family.
"I always knew I wanted to come here," he said.
Mathews was not recruited by Florida. However, he says he was never interested in the Gators to begin with. Instead, Mathews was a Florida State fan in high school. His two other official visits were to Florida State and Ohio State.
"It was mutual," Mathews said of Florida's disinterest. "I wasn't interested. They weren't interested. I was always a Florida State fan, anyway. Warrick Dunn. Charlie Ward. I was a fan of those guys."
Mathews was a hot commodity out of Edgewater, where he played alongside Gators linebacker Lorenzo Edwards. Mathews was rated the No. 8 receiving prospect in the country by Rivals.com. He was also named the 2005 Orlando Sentinel Player of the Year.
Mathews eased into Michigan's receiver rotation last year, catching seven passes for 68 yards. But when standout Steve Breaston left, Mathews stepped forward. His biggest game of the season was his first, when he caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown against Appalachian State. Mathews has also been Michigan's main punt returner.
"It's been going all right," he said. "I've made a couple plays here and there. But there are a lot of areas I can improve on."
With Michigan's top two receivers — junior Mario Manningham and senior Adrian Arrington — expected to be gone after this season, Mathews could emerge as the Wolverines' featured receiver next year. For now, however, he's focused on putting together a memorable game in his hometown.
"I am excited to get a chance to play in Orlando against Florida," he said. "It's an exciting opportunity for myself and my team."
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