Aikee Matthews is taking his talents to the Division II level.
After two seasons at Coahoma Community College, Matthews, a 2019 Clarksdale High School graduate, announced he will be continuing his football career at Mississippi College in Clinton.
Matthews finished his career at CCC with 70 tackles, four fumble recoveries, seven sacks, eight tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups. He started four games his freshman year and all five games in 2020 as the Tigers went 3-2 to have a winning season for the first time in several years.
“It just had the best fit for me,” said Matthews on continuing his career with the Choctaws. “I liked the school when I took a visit. They were saying good things, so I decided to go there instead of going back to Coahoma.”
Instead of finishing the 2020-21 school year at CCC, Matthews will make his move to Mississippi College Jan. 13, 2021 for the spring semester.
Travis Macon changed the culture in the football program during his first season as head coach in 2020. Matthews felt that was part of the reason he was able to continue his career at Mississippi College.
“The first year, it was OK,” Matthews said. “It wasn’t as organized. People were taking it seriously, but as a whole, they weren’t taking it seriously because they were used to losing. But the second year, we had got Coach Macon. He came and changed everything. He had a good positive attitude for the game. He brought a winning attitude to practice, a good work ethic that made us better as a whole. It showed on the field.”
Matthews most fondly remembers his first game with the Tigers as a freshman. He did not see much action, but in front of the home fans, CCC upset one of the top teams in the country Jones County Junior College 18-10.
“When we beat them, we thought we were going undefeated,” Matthews said. “We were like ‘Dang, we aren’t going to lose anymore because we beat the best team we’re going to play.’ But, come to find out, we didn’t win any more games.”
As the Tigers did not win any more games in 2019 and Matthews struggled to see action on the field, he remained focused.
“I just had to stay humble because I didn’t play as much as I wanted to,” Matthews said. “I just stayed humble and stayed patient and waited my turn. When I got on the field and got my opportunity, I executed.”
Now, Matthews is encouraging his teammates from his days with the Wildcats to play for CCC. One of those teammates he encouraged was running back and kick and punt returner Queston Skipper, who recently transferred to CCC.
“Clarksdale helped me because I know a lot of people from our city don’t get a chance to go the next level and play college football and stuff like that,” Matthews said. “I feel I’m blessed to be in an opportunity to take my talent to the next level. That’s what I did. It’s a blessing to make it out.”
The Wildcats finished second in the district Matthews’ senior season. He finished 2018 with 39 tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one fumble recovery. He reflected on the 2018 regular-season finale when Clarksdale had a chance to win the district at Greenwood High School, but lost 21-14 in overtime.
“Before the game, we were in each other’s faces talking noise and stuff while we were stretching,” Matthews said.
Two years later, in 2020, the Wildcats did get over the hump and win the district championship.
“I knew they were going to win it because my little brother plays,” said Matthews, whose brother is senior offensive lineman Almetris Smith.
Smith played in the Bernard Blackwell North/South All-Star Football Game Saturday and received an offer to continue his career at Coahoma Community College in 2021.
“I’m proud of him,” Matthews said. “I always tell him to keep working hard and stuff like that. I just try to set a good example for him. I’m proud he made the All-Star Game. That’s something I didn’t accomplish. He’s just going to keep doing big things. He’s going to sign him a football scholarship.”
Matthews played peewee football for the Clarksdale Lumberjacks and Tyrone Smith was the head coach. He also played basketball going back to his days at Kirkpatrick Health & Medical Science Magnet Elementary School.
“I would have played basketball, but I didn’t have a scholarship and I didn’t want to try out,” Matthews said. “I had a football scholarship, so I just took it.”
Matthews, a sports medicine major, said football would give him an opportunity to support his family.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a coach or something like that,” Matthews said.
Where Matthews will coach is yet to be determined.
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “I just want to really help people my age, so they probably won’t have to go through stuff I did and stuff like that.”