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A visit with DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis and his outstanding DE Shemar Turner

A visit with DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis and his outstanding DE Shemar Turner

In Texas, there’s so much football talent that sometimes it just seems to grow on trees. Just North of Waxahachie and south of Dallas is District 11-6A powerhouse DeSoto High School. And when you make your way to the DeSoto Eagles’ stadium, you’ll find legendary Texas high school football coach Claude Mathis, along with some of the nation’s best athletes — and that includes strongside defensive end Shemar Turner.

District 11-6A is among nation’s best

But first, trust me when I say you can’t mention 6A football in the Lone Star state without hearing the names of schools in 11-6A like DeSoto, Duncanville, and Cedar Hill — programs perennially in the Top 10. So it comes as no surprise that year in and year out, coaches and recruiters flock to Dallas County to see the football talent it produces.

If you were in town today, you would probably see Coach Mathis and his Eagles back to work, fresh off a 57-32 District 11-6A playoff win over Killeen Shoemaker Thursday night.

It all starts with Coach Mathis

In programs such as DeSoto’s, the mentality and the way they go about the game of football is more than just “x’s and o’s.” It’s a way of life. And this way of life starts with Coach Mathis.

Even if you don’t know much about Texas football, you have probably heard of Coach Mathis. He is more than just a coach at DeSoto; he is a pioneer of the program, having built it to glory before he left to join the college ranks as a coach at SMU.

During his first tenure at DeSoto, Mathis led the Eagles to a 74-18 record over seven seasons. He advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs each year. Two times Coach Mathis and his team reached the state semifinals, finishing 14-1 in 2012 and 2013, along with going 11-3 and reaching the state quarterfinals in 2010. Prior to DeSoto, Coach Mathis led Austin LBJ and earned Class 4A Coach of the Year Honors by the Texas Sportswriters Association.

And he’s not just a coach — Mathis was a standout collegiate player who earned a place in the Hall of Honor at Texas State University (formerly known as Southwest Texas State). He was the Southland Conference all-time leading rusher, and was named All-Conference and All-American all four years of his Texas State football career. He also earned Division II All-American honors.

After leaving SMU, Mathis coached high school in Marshall, Texas — but like they say, “when Mama calls, you come home” and to DeSoto he returned to see if he could restore what he had worked tirelessly to create.

His heart and his passion show through the young gentlemen he coaches, both on and off the field.

It isn’t hard to see that Coach Mathis develops great players — and even greater young men. One need only look at 5-star defensive lineman Shemar Turner to understand this.

Battle heating up for talented Shemar Turner

Turner is the No. 4 strong-side defensive end in the nation. He is racking up the accolades and is being pursued by many of the nation’s top schools. He holds over 39 offers to date, but you can be he’s not letting that get to his head. If anything, it appears to be driving him to work even harder.

With the 2020 recruiting clock running, the battle within the SEC for Turner’s talent is getting heated. Some analysts have him staying in state and heading to College Station, while others have him heading to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. But one thing I’ve learned in covering recruiting is you never know what can happen before a young man signs his name on the National Letter of Intent.

It’s no wonder so many schools are vying for the 6-foot-3.5-inch, 282-pound Turner. The No. 9 player in the state of Texas is built as tough as Texas. Here’s a look at what 247Sports says about Turner.

“Good size and frame potential for potential position- and scheme-versatile roles. College-ready size for some spots with the space to bulk to 290-300 range if desired. Experience playing end and inside in a predominantly four-man front. Flashes impressive pursuit ability and straight-line closing speed relative to size. Generally a solid tackler who can arrive with power as a hitter. Shows encouraging pass-rush instincts when aligned inside. Shows the strength at the point of attack to fight through traffic vs. the run. Versatile defensive lineman with impressive build and experience against strong competition. Projects to high-major level with long-term NFL Draft potential with proper development.”

Gabe Brooks, Midlands Region Recruiting Analyst

What makes Turner even more special, beyond his physical capabilities, is his football IQ and his willingness to be coached.

We had the chance to catch up with both head coach Claude Mathis and Shemar Turner to discuss more about this recruiting journey.

DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis

The Rebel Walk: Coach, if anyone has had to opportunity to be at the forefront of the recruiting game at the high school and college-level it has been you. What has been the biggest change you have seen in recruiting through this pandemic? How does this change the dynamic for recruiting now for the coach and recruit relationship?

DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis (Photo courtesy of DeSoto ISD)

Coach Mathis: The biggest change is you don’t get to talk to the recruiters face to face about the player.  I think that is important because body language is everything and they get to see the player practice. 

As for the relationship, I don’t think Covid-19 has messed it up, but it’s always good to see the coaches stop by and talk about our players.

The Rebel Walk: What is the advice you give all your players when it comes to the recruiting process and choosing the best fit for them?

Coach Mathis: I always tell them they have to play and be there for three or more years, not their parents, so make the best decision when it comes to you! You are the one that’s waking up early, sweating, hurting, and grinding.  No one else but you, so do what’s best for you.  You need to make the decision.  No one else. Also I have them do a list of Pros and Cons.

The Rebel Walk: What has been the biggest change you have had to make with your own team to help your athletes during a pandemic?

Coach Mathis: Making sure they are super safe and holding each other accountable to being safe when it comes to Covid19.  They have learned to be super clean and don’t take football or life for granted.

The Rebel Walk: What is your football/ coaching philosophy?

Coach Mathis: Believe in the process and control what we can control.  Our kids believe in my philosophy.

The Rebel Walk: What has been the biggest evolution you have seen from Shemar Turner during his recruitment?

Coach Mathis: He has really matured and has handled the recruiting process better than I thought he would.  I’m very impressed in how he is handling the schools and being up front with all of them.

The Rebel Walk: You have had the opportunity to experience recruiting at the heart of things as a former college coach? What sort of dynamic does an athlete like Shemar bring to football at the college level that will set him apart?

Coach Mathis: Shemar will bring an athletic athlete that can run for his size and help change the game even more because he is so physical and smart!  He knows the game but is a technician at the fundamentals. 

This kid’s motor never stops and he will be able to help younger kids as they come in with the transition.  He could play right now if he stepped on campus.  He is a different student-athlete that can do both! His athletic ability and IQ are through the roof!!  Very smart player and so physical, he is a dominant player!

Shemar Turner

The Rebel Walk: Growing up, who has been one of your biggest football role models?

Shemar Turner: Ray Lewis

The Rebel Walk: What are the key factors that you have looked at in picking a future program and school?

Shemar: Making sure they have  my major and also having a good relationship and bond with my position and strength coach.

The Rebel Walk: What do you believe you can bring most to the college program that you select?

Shemar: A talented leader and someone who is a dog 24/7.

The Rebel Walk: What has it been like not being able to do the traditional recruiting things and how has that changed your recruitment journey.

Shemar: Makes it harder for me to make my decision and it also prolonged my decision.

The Rebel Walk: Your roots are in Texas when it comes to family and football. However, what appeals to you about having the opportunity to play Saturdays in the SEC?

Shemar: I feel great to have the opportunity to play at such a high level.

The Rebel Walk: What do you look for in a college coach?

Shemar: What I look for I’m a college coach is someone who is going to be hard on me and help me develop as a person and an athlete.

The Rebel Walk: What do you enjoy doing outside of football to help yourself stay grounded and de-stress?

Shemar: I enjoy being around family and my brothers and coaches.

The Rebel Walk: What is your go-to song before you play a game?

Shemar: “Hate Me Now” by Chief keef

The Rebel Walk: What is your advice for other recruits during this time?

Shemar: My advice is to just to take your time and don’t be pressured into something. Make the best decision for you because you have to go to the school for 4 to 5 years, no one else does.

About The Author

Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo

Lee Ann is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.

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