Coach Mathis Enjoys Being Back In DeSoto
Sometimes the heart just wants to go home. And home, to Coach Claude Mathis, is DeSoto.
“It’s been very special being back. I still pinch myself. Sometimes I think on Sundays I have to get back in the car and drive to Marshall,” Mathis said.
Marshall is where Mathis was coaching for a couple years before returning to DeSoto, where he was the head football coach from 2008-14. Mathis enjoyed success at Marshall, leading the Mavericks to back-to-back district championships and being named the league’s coach of the year in each season. But his heart – and family – were in DeSoto, except for his son Champ, whom he coached at Marshall and is now playing safety for Texas A&M-Commerce.
“I can’t say enough good things about Marshall, but now I’m back home,” Mathis said. “It was special that my oldest son went with me. In fact, it was beyond special to coach him.”
And being back in DeSoto has proven special. He led the Eagles back into familiar territory, posting a 9-3 record and advancing to the second round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs before falling 37-15 to another perennial power, Southlake Carroll (13-0). DeSoto defeated Dallas Skyline 44-6 to open the postseason.
The Eagles were only two plays away from going 10-0 in the regular season. Their losses were 27-26 to Mansfield Summit (7-4) and 28-27 to Cedar Hill (9-3), both of whom also reached the playoffs.
DeSoto Football Coach Ignites Football Players
“Mathis brings a certain fire to his role as our head football coach and that fire is contagious,” DeSoto Athletic Director Larry Davis said. “His return has reignited an energy in and around our program that is exciting and we look forward to the future of this program and its potential under his leadership.”
During his first tenure at DeSoto, Mathis led the Eagles to a 74-18 record over seven seasons, advancing to at least the second round of the playoffs each year. Twice they reached the state semifinals, finishing 14-1 in 2012 and 2013, along with going 11-3 and reaching the state quarterfinals in 2010.
And yes, the Eagles did win a state championship two seasons after he left, going 16-0 in 2016, but Mathis has his sights on winning one with himself at the helm.
“It’s an opportunity to finish what I started here,” he said, noting that he has three more sons he looks forward to coaching as Eagles, twins who are freshmen, and another in the seventh grade. He also has a daughter who is a junior.
Both Sides Of The Field
Mathis was a college standout, earning a place in the Hall of Honor at Texas State University (then known as Southwest Texas State). He graduated in 1998 with several school records at running back and twice being named NCAA Division II All-American.
Mathis attended a training camp for the Minnesota Vikings right out of college, and even signed as a free agent, though his time with the team was short-lived. He played semi-pro ball, being named the MVP of the North American Football League, leading the league in rushing while playing for the Austin Rattlers.
His first head coaching job was at Somerville in 2004, where he was also the athletic director and head boys and girls track coach. From there he went to Austin LBJ from 2005-08, earning Class 4A Coach of the Year honors by the Texas Sportswriters Association.
He left his first stint in DeSoto for what he thought was his dream at the time, to coach in college. He joined the staff at SMU with Chad Morris.
“Always reach for the stars and the dream. Never let yourself say you didn’t try,” Mathis said of going to SMU.
He did not, however, follow Morris to Arkansas, where Morris was fired recently. Mathis does keep in touch with his former head coach, and others from the SMU staff, he said.
“I still keep a relationship with him, but I wanted to coach my son, so I didn’t go to Arkansas,” Mathis said. “They’re going to rebound. That’s tough what happened to them there, though. It was hard to see.”
Also A Track Coach
Mathis also loves coaching track, and has enjoyed similar success in that sport. In high school at Bartlett he advanced to state in the 300-meter hurdles. He said track and football go hand-in-hand, or perhaps foot-in-foot.
“It helped make me a better football player, and vice-versa,” he said. “Track is a true measure of yourself. Will you push yourself to win or will the pressure get you?”
His track coaching success includes leading the 2012 DeSoto boys to a team state championship on the strength of state titles in the 400-meter and 800 relays.
Now, Mathis said there is no job out there – including college – that can draw him away.
“In a sense I never really left, and I’m not leaving again,” he said. “There’s always a place for us to call home, and DeSoto is that place for me.”