ATHENS — Georgia quarterback D’Wan Mathis was back in his home state of Michigan over spring break when the coronavirus pandemic began to take effect.
Some of the Bulldogs’ players would end up staying home when UGA suspended — and then canceled — face-to-face spring semester classes.
But not Mathis.
“D’Wan came back on spring break and told me he loves where he is from, but that he needed to go back to Georgia,” Terence Mathis told DawgNation on Friday. “He said, ‘Daddy, I love you, but I’m leaving.’
“For us, we’re just happy he was granted the exemption to stay near campus where they have the best doctors in the world keeping up with him.”
The former Ohio State quarterback commit from Metro Detroit has had a challenging rehabilitation period after an emergency brain surgery procedure last May 23 put him in the ICU at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
“I want the public to know this, please write this: Georgia could have given up on my son,” Terence Mathis said.
“But instead, Kirby and his staff have treated D’Wan as though he was their own son. They’ve used every possible resource to stay behind him and keep him engaged with the team after saving his life.”
Indeed, Coach Kirby Smart made it clear last May that Georgia would not rush Mathis’ comeback, and they planned for a complete recovery.
“We are expecting a full recovery, and the timeline is the least of our concerns,” Smart said at SEC spring meetings.
Mathis’ comeback has come in stages. He was cleared to run and lift last July. By the start of the 2019 season, he was participating in limited drill work.
By last November, Mathis was running the scout team offense and playing with such passion that coaches and doctors had to reel him in and remind him to use some restraint.
Mathis was cleared to go through spring football drills, though it’s important to note he’s not yet been cleared for game action.
There’s an MRI test scheduled for May that could provide the all-important clearance for total contact (UGA doesn’t tackle its quarterbacks in spring drills).
More good news came on Friday, when the SEC added some provisions for coaches to instruct players.
Mathis, along with fellow Georgia football quarterbacks Jamie Newman, Carson Beck and Stetson Bennett, has the benefit of chalk talks starting at 1 p.m. next Monday.
Terence Mathis maintains the football part will take care of itself.
He said the most important thing to the Mathis family is how D’Wan has been accepted into the Georgia football community.
“I’m indebted to Georgia, they have extended this incredible opportunity to D’Wan,” Terence Mathis said. “Especially during these tough times, and you know it’s bad up here in Michigan.
“It means everything to us as a family for him to now have the opportunity to be involved with the football planning while still pursuing academics.
“Coach (Todd) Monken has reached out to me and let me know that D’Wan is having positive progress.”
Mathis’ upside was obvious to all who watched last year’s G-Day Game. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder was 15-of-28 passing for 113 yards and provided one of the biggest highlights of the Georgia football spring game.
Mathis, who ran a 10.8-second time in the 100 meters in high school, showed his speed when he caught a double-reverse pass from Matt Landers for a 39-yard touchdown.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 21, 2019
“D’Wan, he’s explosive,” Jake Fromm said of his former understudy. “I think he converted three or four first downs in a row with his legs.
“The guy can run the ball, he can throw it 70 yards, he’s going to be a great player.”
The strong performances in spring drills kept Mathis going during the dog days of last summer and into the season.
But there were also frustrating times when D’Wan Mathis didn’t know what to do without football, unable to travel to away games.
That’s when Georgia came up biggest, according to his father.
“As frustrated as he got, the more they wrapped their arms around him,” Terence Mathis said. “Those coaches could have said they were too busy trying to win the SEC East again and play for another league title. But they didn’t say that.
“They believed in D’Wan, and they have stayed behind him, and the DawgNation fans have stayed behind him, too.”
There is no timetable for college football to return at the time of this publication (March 28). The coronavirus has put all group activities around the world on hold.
But Terence Mathis said his son will remain in Athens.
“That’s what he considers his home now,” he said, “and it’s where we believe he belongs.”