Perryville High School graduate Brian Matthews is an athlete.
One needs look no further than last month's Maryland State Track and Field Championships at Morgan State University for evidence.
The then-senior, who graduated from Perryville Thursday night, dominated the Class 1A portion of the boys meet by winning three gold medals and a silver. Matthews won the high jump, long jump and triple jump and it was the triple jump that raised a few eyebrows. His performance totaled 38 points, which constituted more than a third of the Panthers' state title winning total of 95.50.
It was just the second time that Matthews had competed in the triple jump event. The first came a week earlier in a region meet. Matthews won that title, too.
"I had never triple jumped in my life," Matthews said, recounting the story of how he became the triple jumper of choice. "Later on throughout the season, Coach Moore [Jake Moore], he came to me and asked for me to do one of the biggest event changes that he's going ask all year," Matthews said. "I was like, 'What is it?,' and he was like, 'That's the triple jump'."
Matthews repeats he had never triple jumped before.
"The reigning state triple jumper [Joe Peaker] was on our team, but he didn't come out and do track this year," Matthews said. "The points that he was adding to the team weren't there and Coach Moore looked at me to make up those points. Matthews said these thoughts went through his head: "How am I supposed to do this so late in the season, we were already in regions."
Matthews, the athlete, stepped up.
Matthews recalls his teammates cheering him on during the final few triple jumps.
"I have one jump left, my team needed those points," Matthews said. With his competitor jumping 45 feet, Matthews knew it would take a special jump. "I've always been the guy that loved to perform under pressure," Matthews said. "I guess that's the athlete I am."
So he jumped.
"I thought I scratched," Matthews said. "I looked back and saw the white flag. I saw my footprints in the sand, I just felt it. Then he announced, 45 feet-five inches, I was amazed, on top of the world."
That jump came on just the 12th competitive jump for Matthews, ever. Six at regions and six at states.
"If I could do that in 12 jumps, I can only imagine what I could do if I really took the time to practice it," Matthews said. "So, now, there is no more track for me."
The track career ends with four golds and four silvers at the state level in just two years of participation for the young man whose only track and field time came in middle school in Amherst, Va. Those medals include back-to-back long jump state titles and somewhat ironic, Matthews says high jump is his favorite.
"I was small, not athletic," Matthews said of those middle school days. "I was a basketball player year round."
Coming to Perryville opened up another sports outlet for Matthews, now 6-2, 175 pounds. His accomplishments are taking him to Towson University in a few months to play football and study clinical psychology and military studies. Matthews is listed as a freshman wide receiver on the official Towson football roster.
Matthews has been a two way-starter for the Panthers football team since enrolling at Perryville for his junior year.
"He was one of our primary leaders, a big part of why we've gone 25-2 the last two years and had the success we've had," Perryville football head coach Chris Johnson said. "He payed a big part in that. Not all on what he did on the field, but his leadership. He's that kind of kid."
In the 2012 season, Matthews played in all 13 games. On offense as a wide receiver, he had 24 receptions for 541 yards and four touchdowns. As a defensive back on defense, he made 48 tackles and had six interceptions.
In 2011, Matthews had 16 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, he made 40 tackles and added seven interceptions.
In both seasons, Matthews averaged just over 22 yards per reception per season.
"The big thing would just be, Brian is a team player, very much, whatever needed to be done for success was really what was most important to him," Johnson said. "Other schools missed the boat on him."