When Phidarian Mathis committed to Alabama the day before National Signing Day in February, the nation’s No. 7 defensive tackle prospect cited his lack of a relationship with LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins as the main reason why the Crimson Tide beat out the in-state Tigers.
Some reporters, he said, wrote that he never met with Jenkins while on any recruiting trip. That ticked him off because it wasn’t true.
“That was a lie right there,” Mathis told SEC Country. “I never said that.
“I guess they got me wrong. What I meant was I just felt like he didn’t recruit me as well as (Alabama defensive line) Coach (Karl) Dunbar did. Coach Dunbar was just around more. I know Coach Jenkins became the defensive line coach kind of late, but I just felt like if he was going to coach me, I just needed to talk to him more.”
Before the Neville (La.) High School product committed to Alabama, Mathis said he spoke to Ed Orgeron that morning to tell him that he wasn’t going to choose LSU. There wasn’t anything Orgeron could have said to make him reconsider. Mathis decided Alabama was the school for him after his final official visit to TCU the weekend before signing day.
“Coach O told me that if I changed my mind before tomorrow (signing day), give him a call,” Mathis said. “He wasn’t mad or anything. He just asked if that’s what I wanted to do and I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound prospect was down to Alabama, LSU and TCU for months before picking the Crimson Tide. He admits that there were people in his community that wanted him to choose LSU just because it was located in Louisiana.
“That’s the thing — I feel like a football player, basketball player or whatever player — you don’t have to chase your dreams only right here in Louisiana,” Mathis said. “That’s the way I look at it. I love Alabama. You can be successful wherever.”
The following is a Q&A with Mathis for SEC Country’s Alabama recruiting rewind series.
Question: If you could give a junior ONE piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would you tell them?
Answer: “I would tell them to stay humble. You should weigh out your options and make sure you take all of the visits you can so you can hear what everyone has to say. Just be yourself and don’t get big-headed with all of the offers you may get.”
Q: LSU came in second for you. What could it have done a little better to get your commitment?
A: “They recruited me very hard. I think Alabama just recruited me the hardest. I fell in love with the place and just liked everything about the school. I thank LSU for recruiting me, but I just felt more at home at Alabama.”
Q: What did Alabama do, specifically, to recruit you harder than LSU?
A: “They texted me every single day and stayed in good contact. The way they showed love to me — checking up on me every day to make sure I was all right was what I wanted to see. It wasn’t all about football to them.”
Q: What was the most creative thing a school did to get your attention during the recruiting process?
A: “When I showed up at TCU, they had my junior and senior highlights rolling on the screens as I walked around the facility. That was amazing to me. They had my highlights on TV screens. I had to look twice and said, ‘That’s me?’ That was super nice.”
Q: Which school was it the hardest to say no to?
A: “LSU, because it’s the home school. Everybody around here wanted me to go to LSU, but I had to do what was best for me. When I chose Alabama, my family supported me 100 percent. They love Alabama and everyone is rolling with me.”
Q: What are you doing to train before you get to Alabama?
A: “I’m in the process of still working out with my old team. I do some running on my own. As badly as I want to be there right now, I’m still putting in the work like the guys who are there now. I’m still on the grind with my team. We have one of the best programs in Louisiana.”