Jake Matthews helped Ironwood Ridge win a state title in football during his senior year.


For the last four years, Jake Matthews has attended every home Arizona Wildcats football game as a paying customer.

He'll be at Arizona Stadium for every game the next four years, too, but not as a fan.

The former Ironwood Ridge High School standout has decided to accept coach Rich Rodriguez's offer to be a preferred walk-on with the Wildcats. The linebacker will enroll in summer school on June 23 and join the program for summer workouts.

"It's a new challenge and I'm real excited to stay at home and play in front of my friends and family," Matthews said. "I love Tucson and wanted to stay here."

The 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound multi-sport athlete had plenty of options.

Matthews was selected in the 38th round of the Major League Baseball draft on Saturday by the Kansas City Royals. He said he also had scholarship offers to play baseball at Arizona, Washington, Utah, Kansas State and New Mexico.

If that wasn't enough, he had football offers from Air Force, Navy and several FCS schools. But, in the end, the opportunity to play football for his hometown Wildcats was an offer he couldn't refuse.

"I think I have a lot of potential in football," Matthews said. "In baseball, I don't think it would have been as significant. It's enticing for me to play football."

There was another factor that played into it for the student with a 3.7 grade-point average.

"The travel schedule for baseball is very demanding," said Matthews, who will just stick to football at the UA. "It would cause me to miss a lot of classes. I'm going to be a pre-med major and I can't be missing a lot of classes."

Matthews met with Rodriguez and other members of the UA coaching staff last week. He wanted to see how the draft played out, but had a pretty good idea he was going to go the football route.

The decision to play football for the team he grew up cheering for caps off a heck of a senior year for Matthews. In the fall, he helped guide the Nighthawks to a state championship as a two-way player at wide receiver and linebacker. Matthews had 94 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks. He was also the team's leading receiver with 412 yards and four touchdowns.

In the spring, Matthews hit .481 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs for the baseball Nighthawks and made a run to the state semifinals.

The year was capped off this weekend with his draft selection and then the decision to play football for the UA.

"In all honesty, he's a steal," said Ironwood Ridge football coach Matt Johnson. "He's 6-3, going on 6-4. He started for me as a safety as a junior and could run and hit and tackle in the open field. This year, we used him as a linebacker off the edge who would cover at times. He has a lot of skills.

"I really expect to see him blossom at the UA and develop into a great player."

On StarNet: View photos of Jake Matthews at: azstarnet.com/gallery

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.