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Jeff Mathews in action on the field

Jeff Mathews '14 in action on the field for the Big Red. Photo: Athletic Communications.

All eyes on Jeff Mathews for 2013 season

Jeff Mathews

Jeff Mathews '14. Photo: Athletic Communications. See larger image

On a November day in 2011, actor/comedian Bill Murray waved to the crowd and directed the band in the west stands at Schoellkopf Field. When a Golden Globe Award winner and Academy Award nominee who ranks among the country's all-time great comedians sits in your stands, everyone takes notice.

Everyone, that is, except for the half-dozen NFL scouts who were present. As the Big Red football team piled up a modern-day record 62 points in a win over Columbia, the scouts scribbled in their notebooks every time one particular player touched the football.

One unnamed scout with his team's logo prominently displayed on his golf shirt and hat, upon leaving the press box late in the game, summarized him best, saying: "He's better right now than the guy we're starting tomorrow."

That scout was talking about Cornell's then-sophomore quarterback, Jeff Mathews '14.

While there will be plenty of reasons to watch Big Red football in 2013 – the debut of David Archer '05, the youngest Division I head football coach in the country, or the emergence of the Ivy League Digital Network as a platform to follow the Big Red at home and on the road – there may be no bigger reason to follow the Big Red than Mathews.

The last time Cornell entered the season with a quarterback the NFL had its eyes on was in 1963, when Gary Wood '64 led the team. That was before the NFL-AFL merger and the creation of the Super Bowl. The average house cost $19,300. A stamp ran you 4 cents.

Jeff Mathews in action on the field

Jeff Mathews '14 in action on the field for the Big Red. Photo: Athletic Communications. See larger image

It's fitting to demonstrate in numbers, because that's where Mathews is beyond comparison.

He enters his final season holding 28 Cornell game, season and career records. Another dozen will almost certainly follow in 2013. If he matches his career passing averages over the first three games of the coming season, he'll break the Ivy League's career passing yardage mark. If that extends to the entire 10-game season, he'll fly by all the Ivy League records.

Standing 6 feet 4 inches and 225 pounds, Mathews is one of 20 players on the Walter Payton Award watch list for the second consecutive season. He became the first sophomore in Ivy League history to claim the Bushnell Cup as league player of the year in 2011. He was the runner-up a year ago.

More importantly, if Mathews has the type of season Cornell fans are accustomed to, he might just help lead Cornell to its first Ivy League title on the gridiron since 1990 – and possibly even the first-ever outright title in program history.

"It's hard to imagine it's been three years already in a Cornell uniform," Mathews said. "But the goal is the same as it's always been – to win an Ivy League title."

And then, quite possibly, to become the first Cornell quarterback to play in the NFL in more than 50 years.

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