Cats’ WR makes verbal commitment to UTEP

Clovis High Rishard Matthews, shown in a Class 5A state playoff semifinal game against Onate last November in Las Cruces, set a school record with 12 touchdown receptions last season as a junior. (CNJ file photo)

CNJ staff

Clovis High wide receiver Rishard Matthews hopes to use a big senior season as a springboard into the Division I college game.

The 6-foot-1 wide receiver recently made a verbal commitment for 2007 to the University of Texas-El Paso, a member of Conference USA.

“I went to one of their camps at the beginning of the summer,” said Matthews, who helped the Wildcats reach last December’s Class 5A state championship game. “I just decided to go ahead and verbally commit.”

A verbal commitment is not binding. Players cannot sign for the 2007-08 school year for football until Feb. 7.

Matthews, who set a CHS record last season with 12 touchdown receptions, said New Mexico and New Mexico State had also shown some interest.

“It was serious at first,” he said of the state schools, “but I talked to UTEP a lot.”

Matthews also plays basketball and runs track for the Cats. He was ineligible during the recent track season, but said he has gotten his house in order in that area.

He’s happy with his choice of schools.

“I thought about it a lot,” he said. “I had some trouble with my grades during track. I just wanted to commit and get it out of the way, so I could focus on the other things I have to do.”

Coach Mike Price, entering his third season at UTEP, has turned around a program which went through consecutive two-win seasons before he came from 2001-03. In his two seasons, UTEP has gone 16-8, with back-to-back eight-win seasons and bowl trips — the first time the school has accomplished either of those feats in more than 50 years.

“He passes the ball a lot,” Matthews said of Price’s style on offense. “It’s kind of equal between passing and running. I like what they do over there.”

Matthews, who said he plans to major in business in college, scored 20 touchdowns during the Cats’ 12-2 season in 2005. He had six TDs and more than 350 yards rushing, and also returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.