Ochaun Mathis with a Nebraska jersey surrounded by his family during his official Nebraska visit
Ochaun Mathis and some family members during his visit to Nebraska April 10 - Photo Courtesy @OchaunDevon on twitter

Midway through his high school career, it was clear that Ochaun Mathis had what it took to reach the college level.

By the end of his junior year the 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound defensive edge from Manor, Texas, had received half a dozen offers from schools around the region.

When offers first began flooding in, Mathis’ biggest cheerleader was his mother, Ochana Daniels. She took her advocacy and protective nature into his football life, virtually through social media.

Using her otherwise ordinary Twitter account, she ensured coaches played fair and simultaneously built a brand for her son’s future football career.

In the years since, Mathis dominated the line of scrimmage at Texas Christian University and was the second most valuable edge in this year’s NCAA transfer portal according to 247 Sports.

He also dominated Twitter and was the most mentioned athlete of both Nebraska and Texas fans in the weeks leading up to picking the Huskers, on April 30.

Paired with the unregulated nature of name, image, and likeness, Twitter for college athletes and parents is a bigger monster than ever before. Calculated use of it can put an athlete three steps ahead of those who opt not to touch it. Today, college coaches around the country are perusing the platform to look for their next great player, and now these players are a simple message away. But one wrong tweet, photo or link can destroy any prospect’s chance of reaching the next level. Welcome to the new age of online recruiting.

Combined, Ochaun Mathis (@OchaunDevon) and Ochana Daniels (@Qu33nB3374) have more than 6,800 followers on Twitter. The primary purpose of both accounts is to highlight and showcase the football side of the newest Nebraska defensive edge.

“I’m not an agent,” Daniels said. “I just try to make sure that nothing gets broken through a barrier, and we have to be conscious about boundaries.”

More recently, the nature of Mathis’ Twitter interactions has been different. It’s been reacting to the celebratory Husker fans, ready to watch their new-look defensive front in the fall. Or the Texas fans, yelling about how he made the wrong choice out of his final two options.

“More people have an insight to him as a person than just a football player,” Daniels said. “The influence that he brings upon people, it’s not about football, it’s about respect. Respect for his love of his family and his dream.”

These values have been long instilled in Mathis.

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Ochaun Mathis with his Mother, Ochana Daniels – Photo courtesy Shownuff via YouTube

“That’s one lady I can say is my rock,” Mathis said in his documentary on April 24, on his YouTube channel.

“Growing up was a bit tough since we were in a low-income family, single-parent household, she raised me,” he said. “That’s my mom.”

By the time Mathis reached Manor High School, he was ready to make his loved ones proud. Several members of his family all had the opportunity to go to college to play sports but fell short of reaching the next level.

His sophomore year, coaches called and suddenly Mathis was one of so many high school athletes in the cutthroat world of recruiting.

“College coaches dwell on Twitter the most,” said Ocean Lakes High School Coach Deon Glover. “They can kind of sit back and observe and watch players and gather intel, you know what I’m saying concerning those players. When I noticed that, I just saw it as an opportunity.”

Located in Virginia Beach, Ocean Lakes High School has produced multiple NFL players in the past decade, with dozens more at the NCAA Division I level.

Since 2011, Glover has been known as “Coach Glove” on Twitter, @dhglover.

Years before it became the norm, Glover recorded his sons’ workouts and posted the highlights on Twitter.

The most recent graduate of this social media schooling was Glover’s stepson, Tony Grimes. A projected third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Grimes currently plays defensive back at North Carolina.

Tony worked on defensive back drills against NFL players as early as his sophomore year of high school. College coaches quickly took notice.

The five-star recruit signed his letter of intent on July 30, 2020.

Glover prefers Twitter because of its ability to “immediately hit.” The most exceptional content can quickly reach a broad base.

“Every time somebody retweeted you, you retweet into a different social network,” he said. “They’ll watch it a couple of times, and then out of the blue, they’ll follow you.”

Glover said that as much of a tool social media can be for good, it can also be the biggest deterrent for an athlete landing a college offer.

“I’ve seen some kids throw up gang signs, have guns and oppose this and that,” he said. “That tells the college coach, ‘I need to stay away from this guy.’”

That’s why alongside the highlight plays, Glover frequently shows Grimes’ community involvement as well. Grimes has been active in helping feed the homeless population in his local community.

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Logo of Official Recruits’ Gameday Camp Series, part of Deon Glover’s organization which gives high school athletes a national recruiting profile – Photo courtesy Official Recruits

But social media isn’t intuitive for everyone. Glover’s use of social media has come with years of experience. For new parents of high school athletes, he coaches his best use tips, through an organization he created called Official Recruits, and its Game Day Camp Series.

“When we run our recruiting workshops, that’s one of the primary things that we teach our parents and athletes, the do’s and don’ts of social media,” he said.

Glover said many small things can go a long way. Athletes who use their real name, what high school they attend and listing a GPA are all bits that stick out to college coaches looking to know more.

Frequently, Glover receives calls from college coaches, asking about one of his players at Ocean Lakes.

“If he’s a kid that’s in my program, I have all the vital information,” he said. “I’ve seen kids catch fire in the recruiting process from a single post. And otherwise, he would have never been seen.”

Right now, the landscape isn’t even, according to Glover.

“Old-school” coaches at high schools who don’t use Twitter are leaving their athletes under-recruited on the national stage. In the college world of name, image and likeness, that could result in fewer money-making opportunities at the college level.

Ochaun Mathis got his step ahead. After he committed to TCU, his play on the field did the talking.

With 26 tackles-for-loss and 12.5 sacks in his three full seasons at TCU, Mathis is ready for his final dress rehearsal at Nebraska before he can potentially prepare for the next level.

Combine the stats with his presence online, and brands across Lincoln are scheming for ways to incorporate Nebraska’s newest star into their latest campaign.

“They see on film, what type of player he is,” Daniels said. “But to know him personally, it’s something totally different.”

Peyton Thomas is a Senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Sports Media, Broadcasting, and Journalism with a minor in Political Science. He is passionate about sports, and always attempts to find unique stories about real people in his everyday life.