D'Wan Mathis' time at Georgia may be ending, but he'll have fans for life - no matter where he ends up
Not one person will fault D’Wan Mathis for entering the NCAA’s transfer portal.
The truth is that there simply wasn’t an opportunity for the redshirt freshman to break through in Georgia’s quarterback room. Not with JT Daniels at the reins, or with 5-star Brock Vandagriff coming in next year, or with Carson Beck and former starter Stetson Bennett IV on the roster.
And that’s neither his fault nor that of the coaching staff. This is far from a Jacob Eason or Justin Fields situation. Every Georgia fan is wishing — hoping is probably a better word — he’d have made a bigger impact, considering there was the possibility that he wouldn’t even be here today.
And I’m not talking about his recruitment.
Things started well for Mathis. After formerly being pledged to Ohio State and Michigan State, he ultimately signed with Georgia, joining the program in 2019 as an early enrollee. He impressed in the spring game, poised to be a solid backup option to incumbent Jake Fromm.
Then came the devastating news: a brain cyst that, if not for emergency surgery, could have cost him his life.
That will throw things into perspective in a hurry.
“We were 745 miles away when all this happened … and Coach Smart made sure my son was taken care of the same way he would treat his own children,” Mathis’ father, Terence, said shortly after the incident.
Xs and Os were suddenly an afterthought. Fortunately, Mathis made a full recovery, eventually being cleared for football activities a year later. In September, he was on the football field, his first game as an SEC starter against Arkansas.
And while things didn’t go as planned — he didn’t see much time after that – it was the completion of a 16-month journey of not just perseverance, but of self-reflection. I know I was rooting for him during that season-opener despite him giving way for Bennett in the 2nd quarter.
“I wasn’t really buying in to everything and then when I got hurt, I remember waking up and telling myself, ‘you got hurt for a reason,'” he said in January. “There’s a reason why everything happens and me just keeping a positive mindset and trying to be a great teammate every day to just keep the guys going.”
There’s sure to be the question of “what if” Mathis hadn’t gone through his ordeal. Would he have been the starter in 2020? Where would the Dawgs be had he remained healthy? We’ll never know. For Mathis’ part, though, his maturity and the way he approached life before and after his surgery speaks to the kind of person he is.
Although he is in the transfer portal, there’s a chance he pulls out and accepts Kirby Smart’s offer to stay with the program. But it’s likely he is playing elsewhere in 2021. There’s certainly plenty of college football left for him to play if he chooses to, as he’ll have 4 years of eligibility remaining.
And while no one knows where his next stop will be, he will not be short of offers from teams that will be looking to add him to the fold. A destination that has been mentioned is Michigan State, coached by Mark Dantonio during Mathis’ recruitment and now led by former Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Regardless of where he ends up, though, he will have a number of fans from Athens, Georgia, rooting for his success the rest of the way.