Matthews earning his nickname for Indiana

It started with a big play and a violent hit.

That’s how the monster was born.

Devon Matthews was merely an 8-year-old defensive end playing Pop Warner football when he developed his nickname. His youth coach coined it, calling Matthews “Monster” after he knocked off a quarterback’s helmet while delivering a sack.

The name was catchy, and it spread quickly. By the time he was in middle school, no one — not even his own mother — called him Devon. Just Monster.

“Some people don’t even know my real name,” Matthews said. “But they know Monster.”

At Indiana, the freshman safety had to earn the right to carry the name. When Kasey Teegardin, Matthew’s position coach at IU, was hired back to the staff in March, he challenged his new recruit. Teegardin refused to call Matthews “Monster” until he proved he was worthy.

It didn’t take long.

Matthews — or Monster — has quickly become a player the Hoosiers are counting on at the back end of their defense. His goal line stop during Saturday’s loss at Michigan preserved Indiana’s halftime lead and illustrated that kind of physicality that earned him his name all those years ago.

“That’s what I came here for,” Matthews said of his tackle.

Indeed, Matthew’s touchdown-saving tackle of Michigan tight end Sean McKeon in the waning seconds of Saturday’s first half was a glimpse of what IU wants to see from its young defensive back. He ran down McKeon, flattening him at the IU 2-yard line with a textbook tackle in the final moments of the second quarter.

“He rolled his hips, wrapped up and drove straight through the guy,” Teegardin said. “When we do our crash mat tackles and everything during practice, that’s exactly what we’re trying to simulate, that exact play. That’s a game-changing play. Our team fed off that big time at halftime.”

For Matthews, it was only the latest big play of his freshman season, further solidifying his right to call himself Monster.

He recorded his first career interception at Ohio State, made five tackles in a win at Rutgers and recovered a fumble in his first career game at Florida International.

But it was crack-back block on special teams during the Ball State in September when Matthews first established himself as Indiana’s monster, taking out a pair of Cardinals in one play.

“I didn’t even know I hit two of them, to be honest,” Matthews said. “I just hit one person and then I guess the other came and got in the way, so I hit him as well.”

After that play, Teegardin was a believer. He was willing to call Matthews “Monster.”

“I said, ‘Alright, you earned it,'” Teegardin said of the nickname. “From then on, I’ve been calling him it.”

Indiana coach Tom Allen, out of respect for Matthews’ mother, agreed to go along with it from the beginning of Matthews’ recruitment.

If Matthews’ own mother, of all people, called him Monster, Allen would, too.

“It’s a unique nickname, for sure,” Allen said. “When we first heard that was his, we were like, ‘Excuse me, what did you say?’ But there’s no question, I can see why they called him that when he was young.”

There are some fundamental teaching points that the 6-foot-2, 206-pound freshman sill must master. Teegardin wants to work on Matthews’ footwork during the offseason, while further coaching him on the defensive playbook.

Already, Matthews’ penchant for big plays and hard tackles has allowed him to find a path to early playing time inside IU’s defense.

For the young man known as Monster, it didn’t take long to prove that the name fit.

“He’s got the frame for it,” Teegardin said. “It’s just the way he plays and portrays himself on the field. The kid’s a monster. No doubt.”

8 comments

  1. Matthews, I mean Monster, is one of the reasons that this staffs first recruiting class [2017 was left over from the previous staff ecept for the defensive players coach Allen recruited] is so good. Many of the freshmen have shown they are capable of playing early in the B1G and the reason I think the commits for 2019 can do the same thing. This staffs evaluation of players is very good and the team will improve over the next couple of years moving IU up higher in the B1G.

    I am very glad Monster and his clasmates are at IU and I look forward to watching them play every game including over the next few years.

    1. V13,
      I do believe this year’s freshman class has been a pleasant surprise. The question is can TA continue to recruit at this level and better going forward. If he can continue to build, then there is a chance for a turnaround in IUFB fortunes. I don’t have a problem if, to use an HC term, slow and steady; just as long as it continues to build. If you win one more game each year going forward, I don’t think anyone is going to complain about last year’s 5 wins or hopefully this year’s 6 or more wins if next year you win 7 or more. The important part is seeing measurable improvements each year and the best measurement of that is in the “W” column.

      PS, you know I have to love the new screen name.

      1. I think Allen will continue to bring in top 50 recruiting classes year in year out. With his ties in Tampa and his relentless efforts to keep the Indy kids home, I can’t see him not bringing in solid classes.

  2. You can never have too many “Monsters” playing defense for you! He is a stud! Let’s recruit a dozen more!

  3. Nice article. But we’ve seen this same kind of article written for the last 7 years- a freshman recruit that was given playing time and performed well. Everyone takes it as a sign that better play is just around the corner. Then IU only goes on to beat the worst Big Ten teams. Real change is going to take Top 30, or more likely, Top 20 recruiting classes.

    1. Nope. Your “Real change is going to take Top 30, or more likely, Top 20 recruiting classes.” comment is not true at all. Over the last eight years, Wisconsin has had an average recruiting class of 42nd ranked in the nation (IU averaged 52nd FWIW). In that same span, how many wins per season have Wisc averaged? A shade better than 10 wins per season! I’ve harped before about Tom Allen being our version of Barry Alvarez and Allen is currently on nearly the same coaching trajectory as Alvarez was. Year four was when Alvarez turned Wisconsin around (1-10, 5-6, 5-6, 10-1-1). The ten years prior to Alvarez, Wisconsin was 46-59-1.

      Is this article repeated every year? I wouldn’t doubt it but the Hoosiers certainly haven’t brought in players of Devon Matthews caliber every year. Kevin Wilson started the trend of bringing in top 50 classes and prior to that they were routinely in the 60s and 70s. Whether anyone agrees or not, Allen is going to build Indiana into a WINNER. And that’s something Indiana has rarely ever been in football. In fact, they are one of the worst programs in major college football history. A winning program is on the horizon. The days of Indiana being a perennial loser are almost over.

      1. fishspinners- I appreciate a well formulated argument. So I tip my hat to you for your Wisconsin analogy. And Wisconsin certainly hit a home run with Alvarez despite not recruiting top 20 classes. But I don’t see any signs that Allen is the next Alvarez. Wisconsin was truly terrible when Alvarez took over. IU had been to back to back bowl games with the expectation that the 2017 team would be better. Allen has not shown the ability to produce consistent results. If he wins on Saturday, everyone (myself included), will view the season as a success. But a loss means back to back years of losing to teams they should have beaten without any major conference wins. My gut tells me his team will probably not compete much better than they did in last year’s bucket game. At that point, his future potential becomes less important than his current lack of success. Ugly games against Rutgers and Maryland (without a HC) as your only Big Ten wins does not engender a lot of confidence.

Comments are closed.