Culture / Sporting Life

How Matthew Golden Quietly Wowed No Hype UH Coach Dana Holgorsen and Became a 7-Year-Old’s Hero — The Real Story of UH’s Next Star

The Perfect Complement to the Nathaniel Dell, the Best Receiver in the AAC

BY // 08.05.22

Dana Holgorsen doesn’t do false hype — and the University of Houston football coach has little patience for BS or nonsense of any type. Holgorsen doesn’t praise guys just to praise them. Far from it. So the fact that UH’s very direct coach is already practically gushing (by his standards) over true freshman receiver Matthew Golden is significant.

“He’s a different special kind of young man,” Holgorsen says when I ask about Golden. “He’s very mature, very hard working. He doesn’t say anything. And can go get it.”

Golden already looks like UH’s next offensive star. With fall camp practices officially underway, Golden seems to be going and getting a starting job. Moments before the first practice began on Thursday morning, Holgorsen confirmed what anyone who knows this 19-year-old could attest to already.

Matthew Golden is way ahead of the curve.

“Right now Matt Golden is the starting Z receiver,” Holgorsen says. “I can tell you that right now.”

Golden’s high school coach James Clancy all but laughs when I ask if he’s surprised by Golden’s lightning fast move into the early starting grid of a Houston football team that’s ranked in the Top 25.

“Not one bit,” Clancy says. “Not one bit.”

“Matthew has always been able to rise to the occasion,” Clancy tells PaperCity. “He has always exceeded what a natural progression would be.”

Golden set the school record at Klein Cain High School with four touchdown catches in his first game on the varsity as a sophomore. He’s used to dominating in no time.

“He was like having a grown man out there at times,” Clancy says. “. . . The thing about Matthew is that any time he touches the ball, something is going to happen. It was hard to stay a coach sometimes because you’re kind of like, ‘I’d like to just sit back and enjoy this.’ ”

Take the last game of Golden’s high school career — a 56-53 loss to Spring High School in the state playoffs where UH’s freshman sensation almost single handedly willed a school that only opened its doors in 2017 to the brink of a major win. Golden caught two touchdown passes, ran for another touchdown and even completed a pass on a trick play.

Of course, James Clancy will tell you that the immense talent — Golden is one of the highest-rated players to ever sign with the University of Houston — and all those big plays are the second or third most impressive things about Matthew Golden.

“First and foremost Matthew is a very good person,” Clancy, who first met Golden when he was a seventh grader. “A very good human being. I think the thing that stands out — the thing that’s always stood about Matthew — is he’s got an unbelievable heart.

“He cares about other people. He cares about teammates, coaches, family. He’s a very loyal individual.”

Take Golden’s buddy-buddy bond with Clancy’s 7-year-old son Brody. Brody Clancy and Matthew Golden used to high five before every Klein Cain game and they’d throw the football around before games too.

“My 7-year-old son, Matthew Golden is his hero,” James Clancy tells PaperCity. “They got a really neat little relationship. And I’d be in big trouble if I don’t get him to watch Matthew play this year.”

Matthew Golden’s 7-Year-Old Buddy

How big of a Matthew Golden fan is Brody? He dressed up as Matthew Golden for Halloween, insisted on having a No. 2 Klein Cain jersey like Golden wore in his size. Then when an appendectomy put Brody Clancy in the hospital on Halloween and forced him to miss trick or treating, James Clancy snuck his son’s Halloween costume into the hospital and got a picture of him in that prized No. 2 jersey. And sent it to Golden, who sent back a message of love.

“Win or lose, whether he had the type of game he wanted to have or not, he always made time to stop and give my son hug and do all that,” James Clancy says of Golden. “That was one of the things I told him. No matter what level you play at, don’t ever lose that wholesomeness.

“Because that’s what makes him special.”

That — and running the 100 meter dash in 10.93 seconds and long jumping 21 feet and nine inches — make the 6-foot, 190-pound Golden a special addition for UH football.

When you combine that talent with the type of workman-like demeanor that wins coaches over, Matthew Golden’s quick ascent at the college level probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

“You kind of saw him rising to the occasion in the moment,” James Clancy tells PaperCity of coaching Golden in high school. “Big stakes, big crowds. And you knew that whenever he was going to leave us, whenever he went on to the next thing, he’s not going to see a moment that was too big for him.”

He certainly hasn’t so far.

Golden dominated the glorified Houston spring scrimmage practice the media was allowed to watch, going up high to snag several balls for big plays down the field. At Thursday’s fall camp opener, he showed his superior athleticism with an almost nonchalant one-handed catch of a Clayton Tune pass.

In many ways, Golden looks like this year’s Alton McCaskill, Houston’s ultra talented true freshman star of last fall. McCaskill, who is already running as he attempts to come back from ACL surgery, scored 16 touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a true freshman.

The University of Houston Cougars prevailed in an overtime 31-24 win over East Carolina University, Saturday
Clayton Tune and Alton McCaskill drove the Houston offense when McCaskill was just a freshman. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Golden’s been on UH’s campus since last January, trying to give himself the best chance to make an impact. Enrolling early gave him a full spring in Holgorsen’s program. And he took advantage of it. By being the quickest of studies.

“He was real slow in the spring for the first two weeks,” Holgorsen says. “We took spring break, we came back and something just started clicking for him. So, it’d be hard for any freshman to get playing time — let alone start — if they just get here in the summer.”

“Win or lose, whether he had the type of game he wanted to have or not, he always made time to stop and give my son hug and do all that. That was one of the things I told him. No matter what level you play at, don’t ever lose that wholesomeness.” — Klein Cain coach James Clancy on Matthew Golden

As far as Golden just staying quiet and making big plays? His high school could see that coming too.

“He’s all business,” James Clancy says, making time to talk to his reporter after 10 pm on a weeknight because the subject was Matthew Golden. “He’s all business. One on one, you could get him to laugh and tell a joke here or there. But he’s very business like.

“Matthew’s always taken care of his business. He’s an excellent student. He was very dependable. He’s a very reflective kid. He’s highly intelligent. He does a good job of processing things.”

Including the opportunity that is there for him at the University of Houston, one he grabbed after initially committing to TCU before later changing his mind. A switch that Clancy attributes in part to Golden’s tight relationship with UH receivers coach Daikiel Shorts Jr.

Golden’s quiet confidence — and impossible to miss skills — quickly started winning his new teammates over. The freshman wears No, 1o for the Cougars and the guy who wears No. 1, junior receiver Nathaniel Dell, is already a big believer.

“That man is going to be special,” Dell gushed of Golden at the American Athletic Conference’s Media Day. “You’re going to see this year.”

Matthew Golden Houston Klein Cain
Matthew Golden is already hitting the weight room hard at the University of Houston. (@MatthewGolden_2)

With Dell — who jumps out as the most dangerous skill player in the AAC, a guy that both Cincinnati and Auburn could not cover last season — and Golden on the outside, UH could have one of the more talented receiver duos in America. On this first day of fall camp, Holgorsen notes that USC transfer Joseph Manjack IV will push Golden for that starting spot.

“Joseph Manjack probably had the best summer,” Holgorsen says. “He looks really good, Matt Golden had the best spring. He looks really good. (West Virginia transfer) Sam Brown looks good.”

There are plenty of balls to go around for talented receivers in a Dana Holgorsen offense. Especially one led by a fifth-year senior as efficient as Tune.

The freshmen with all the skills who’s making plays and not saying much is already emerging as a potential force. Matthew Golden helped transform Klein Cain football under coach James Clancy, playing a big part in turning a high school that didn’t exist before 2017 into a regular playoff team.

Now he’s making another quick impact. Matthew Golden does not have to say a lot. His play is doing plenty of talking for him.

Besides, he knows a certain 7-year-old will be pumping him up and leaving him video messages of support too.

For more of Chris Baldwin’s extensive, detailed and unique insider coverage of UH sports — stories you cannot read anywhere else — bookmark this page. Follow Baldwin on Twitter here.

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