In producing Damar Hamlin, Dane Jackson, Jason Pinnock, K’Waun Williams, Avonte Maddox and Jordan Whitehead over the past handful of seasons, Pitt has churned out top defensive backs under Pat Narduzzi.
Damarri Mathis is officially Pitt’s next NFL defensive back, being selected by the Denver Broncos with the 115th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, coming off the board in the fourth round.
And Narduzzi feels like Mathis might be the most talented of the bunch, boasting elite physical traits and a tenacious play style that translates well to the next level.
“It says a lot, you know our defense is built around what those corners can do. … The NFL loves it, Damarri gave me a big hug over there and said why I came here,” Pat Narduzzi said after Pitt’s Pro Day. “I watch a lot of guys in the NFL, you watch Dane Jackson and how well he performed in the playoffs. I have a text message to and from, going back and forth like, I thought in the NFL it was all about matchups but they aren’t matching up with you, they’re throwing to the other side. If you watched any game, they’re throwing away from Dane Jackson. You look at what Damarri did today, and he’s impressive. You look at Avonte Maddox with Philadelphia and all the guys we have and you look at (Jason Pinnock), I haven’t got a chance to watch a lot of tape with the Jets, but (Mathis is) gonna be really good in the NFL. He’s gonna play in the NFL for a long time because he’s smart, he’s tough, he will hit you, he’s a boundary corner. We usually put our best corner in the boundary because it’s shorter throws and the balls gonna go that way, so he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got ball skills and he can jump out of the roof and he’s really fast with that 4.39 he ran in Indianapolis. So, he might be the most talented corner we’ve had come out of here in seven years.”
Mathis ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this month, and he put together a superb Pro Day with a 43.5-inch vertical jump and 11.1-foot broad jump — to complement explosive speed and agility drills in the shuttle and three-cone. Mathis may be a higher riser as the NFL Draft draws closer.
— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) March 21, 2022
With cornerbacks tasked to play on literal islands, with no safety help over the top, it’s often a quick adjustment. If you’re beaten by the opposing wide receiver, it’s a touchdown. It’s tough at the college level, but it does prepare Pitt’s corners for the rigors of NFL football.
Mathis played as Pitt’s top cornerback in 2021, racking up 43 tackles (32 solo), two interceptions, including a pick six, and five passes defended. And coming off a 2020 season missed to injury, it was a leading effort in a bounce-back campaign.