Jake Matthews might have become “Jake Football” instead of blocking for Johnny Football if not for his father. Matthews played quarterback as a freshman at Missouri City Elkins High School before following in his family’s footsteps by moving to the offensive line.
“I never really had a nickname like that,” the Texas A&M product said with a smile Wednesday. “I was more of a drop-back passer.”
Instead, Jake now is a top draft prospect, becoming the third Matthews in his immediate family to enter the NFL as an offensive lineman.
“I played quarterback from pee wee football through my freshman year of high school,” Matthews said. “My sophomore year was my first year at tackle. I just never looked back from then. I loved it.”
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Matthews projects as one of three Aggies to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Because he plays on the offensive line, Matthews has been somewhat overshadowed by his bigger-name teammates, Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. But Matthews could be the first Aggie off the board May 8, though all three are possible top-10 choices.
With Manziel and Evans waiting until March 27 to work out for scouts, Matthews served as the main draw for the 33 scouts at A&M’s annual Pro Day. Matthews stood on his workout numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine, but he participated in position drills and then met privately with the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Browns.
“He’s a great player,” said Alonzo Highsmith, the Packers’ senior personnel executive. “He did everything the right way in college. He’s a five-tool guy. There’s no questions to him. When you play big-time college football, and you start for four years, I think that’s enough said about who you are sometimes.”
The last name says everything.
Bruce Matthews, Jake’s father, played 19 seasons on the offensive line of the Oilers/Titans, made 14 consecutive Pro Bowls and entered the Hall of Fame in 2007. Bruce’s second son, Kevin, started at center for the Aggies for two seasons and has played in 17 NFL games over four seasons. Mike started at center for A&M this past season as a sophomore. Bruce Matthews’ youngest son, Luke, continues the tradition as he heads into high school.
“We’re all here today because of the way [Jake] played,” Rams general manager Les Snead said, “but just in the workout today, you can tell that the guy probably was in the crib doing this stuff and did it at the dinner table, it comes so natural to him. He knows what to expect at the next level, because his dad’s played in it, coached in it, so he’ll be able to handle all the weather that comes with the high-pressure job on the offensive line.”
The Matthewses are only the third family to have three generations of NFL players. Jake’s grandfather, Clay Matthews Sr., started the family tradition in 1950 with the 49ers. Jake’s uncle, Clay Jr., and two of his cousins, Clay Matthews III and Casey, went into the family business, though on the defensive side.
“It’s kind of like I’ve been training for this process my whole life,” Jake said. “I think we calculated it earlier. I’m the seventh Matthews to go into the NFL. So it’s really humbling, especially being a part of this family and all the tradition with football that we have and just a great background. I’m truly blessed to be a part of it.”
Bruce, who coached the Titans’ offensive line for three seasons until the staff was fired after the 2013 season, encouraged Jake’s move from quarterback to the offensive line. Bruce, who served as Elkins offensive line coach that spring, initially placed Jake with the fourth string.
“I’ve always been tough on my kids in terms of, ‘Hey, if you’re playing, there will be no doubt among your peers and anyone that it wasn’t because your dad did it for you,’” Bruce said. “So I put him at right tackle, fourth string in the spring. One day later, he was starting. I’d love to take credit for everything he did, but he’s been blessed with God-given ability.”