Jacoby Mathews

Four-star Ponchatoula safety Jacoby Mathews smiles after his commitment to Texas A&M on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at the Ponchatoula Park Recreation Center. Mathews had LSU, Florida and Texas A&M as his top three choices. 

Jacoby Mathews made his decision to commit to Texas A&M on the eve of national signing day.

“I told him to sleep on it,” said his dad, Lawrence Mathews.

When he woke up Wednesday, the decision was the same, and the family had white-and-maroon “Team Jacoby” shirts made for the evening of signing day.

LSU coach Brian Kelly landed two of his six targets on national signing day, and Mathews, of Ponchatoula, was a defining test of Kelly’s grip on the state since his hire.

He was able to solidify commitments from such in-state stars as quarterback Walker Howard, and offensive tackles Will Campbell and Emery Jones. He also reeled in Jordan Allen, Quency Wiggins and Fitzgerald West in December.

But Mathews was the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana and No. 2 safety in the nation, and he chose to leave the state.

“I just figured who is going to develop me on the collegiate level and who would send me to the first round the fastest,” Mathews said. “(Jimbo) just showed me the scheme of the defense and how he used (Derwin) James and Jalen Ramsey. Then, I just wasn’t able to build a bond at Florida. I wouldn’t be that comfortable with the decision.”

Mathews’ diverse background and ability to excel at multiple positions made him one of the nation’s top players, but he held off on committing because he wanted to take more visits and see how LSU’s coaching change would affect the program.

“We put him in like five different places and wherever he played, he was outstanding,” Ponchatoula coach Hank Tierney said. “He threw a two-point conversion to T.J. Finley to win a game as a freshman, so he’s been a really good player with a very high skill set for a long time. I saw him play in junior high, and I knew.”

Mathews started his high school career at wide receiver, but he settled in at the safety position halfway through his freshman year. As a sophomore, he caught 26 passes for 626 yards, including 11 touchdowns. He then became the guy throwing the touchdowns during his junior year, where he completed 62 passes for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns during nine games at quarterback.

During his senior year, Mathews amassed 70 tackles and four interceptions at safety.

“He is a classic safety that can play back at center field and moves really well for his size,” On3 national recruiting analyst Sam Spiegelman said. “It’s very freakish, he is an absolute ball hawk, but also big enough and physical enough to assist in the run game. He’s a dynamic defender that any defensive coordinator is going to love.”

Mathews visited Florida in early January, then Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher visited Mathews on Jan. 25. Mathews took his final official visit to LSU on Jan. 28.

With the landscape of recruiting recently changed by name, image and likeness possibilities, there were rumors that a monetary deal might be the driving force behind Mathews' decision.

Both Jacoby and his father, Lawrence, denied that any NIL compensation was offered to him from Texas A&M, Florida or LSU.

Texas A&M completed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for the first time in school history. It’s also the No. 1 recruiting class of all-time, according to 247 Sports. LSU finished at No. 12.

“There is no $30 million fund, there is no $5 million, there is no $10 million. This is garbage, it pisses me off,” Fisher said during a new conference on Wednesday about how the Aggies landed their class. “It comes from a site called Bro Bible by a guy named Sliced Bread that everybody runs with, so it’s written on the internet as gospel. To me, it’s insulting to the players that we recruited that that’s why they would come here. You ever been to a game here?”

Without Mathews, Kelly struck out on recruiting the state of Louisiana in his final push to obtain Class of 2022 seniors. Both of his recruits from national signing day were from Texas.

Email Leah Vann at LVann@TheAdvocate.com or follow her on Twitter, @LVann_sports.