When he was growing up, D.J. Matthews didn’t know much about Indiana’s football program at all. As a Jacksonville, Fla., native the Hoosiers didn’t resonate with him much and for good reason. The Hoosiers went to exactly one bowl game between 1993 and 2015.
“I really do know Indiana University for basketball,” Mathews said in a Zoom press conference with reporters Thursday. “I called it Oladipo’s School. That’s really all I knew about Indiana.”
But while he was at Florida State, where he started his career as a four-star recruit in 2017, he started to notice Indiana’s football program and coach Tom Allen going into Florida and specifically to Jacksonville and Tampa to get highly regarded players, including quarterback Michael Penix, defensive back Devon Matthews and wide receiver Whop Philyor among many others.
So by the time he decided to enter the transfer portal in September, he had a sense of the positive momentum Indiana had. After watching the Hoosiers beat Penn State and Michigan in the first three games of their season en route to a 6-2 season and an Outback Bowl bid he was sold.
“Indiana was one of the first schools to reach out to me,” Matthews said. “I had been hearing so many great things about Coach Allen and for Coach Allen to reach out to a guy who has already graduated, who has already played, who already has experience and give me another opportunity to come to a winning program, an uprising program, that’s just something that I felt like I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, playing for one of the greatest coaches in college football right now.”
Matthews is on campus now with the rest of the transfers and early enrollees. The weather has taken some getting used to, but he’s getting a sense of what his role will be and that seems like exactly what he’s used to.
Mathews, who committed in mid-November, said before the season ended that he hoped All-Big Ten wideout Ty Fryfogle would return for his senior season. He has, which means the Hoosiers will have an outside receiver who will take a lot of attention. Philyor opted to leave for the NFL after catching 54 passes for 495 yards and three touchdowns in the Hoosiers’ eight-game season, which leaves open a position in the slot for the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Matthews. Matthews caught 84 passes for 809 yards and five touchdowns in his three seasons at Florida State, but he could catch more than he ever has in a season if he wins the starting job in the slot.
“I’m super excited,” Matthews said. “We threw the ball like 52, 55 times a game. That’s a lot of opportunity for a lot of us receivers to out there and make a lot of plays.”
Matthews will also get an opportunity to make plays in the return game, which is where he was his most dangerous at Florida State. He returned 56 punts for 582 yards and a touchdown in his career with the Seminoles. The touchdown was a 74-yarder against FSU rival Miami in 2018.
Cornerback Reese Taylor had the job for Indiana last season and returned 9 for 73 yards and a long of 21.
“Punt return, that’s something I’ve been doing my whole life,” Matthews said. “Coach Allen told me that’s something I would have an opportunity to do when I got here. That’s something I take extremely serious. I take all special teams serious. I love special teams. I’m a special teams guy. That’s what got me on the field when I first got to college so that’s something I take tremendously seriously.”
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