Bruce Matthews never got ring that Falcons’ Jake Matthews seeks at Super Bowl 51

Bruce Matthews will never forget coming up a half-yard short of tying Super Bowl XXXIV. Son Kevin Matthews, then 12, remembers batting away the confetti as it fell on the St. Louis Rams. Son Mike Matthews, then 6, has only a vague recollection of peering through people to try to get a view of the game.

Son Jake Matthews, then two weeks from his eighth birthday, has all those memories, too.

Seventeen years ago Monday, the Tennessee Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams 23-16 in one of the most memorable Super Bowl finishes.

Jake Matthews now gets a chance to do something no one in his immediate family has done. The Atlanta Falcons’ starting left tackle hopes to join his cousin, Clay III, a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, in winning a ring.

“It’s like every time we watch it you’re thinking, ‘Oh, they’re going to score this time. We’re going to win it. We’re going to come back,’ ” Jake Matthews said Monday during Media Night. “It’s just such a letdown to know they came up so short. But you know what? It’s my turn now. Let’s make a good memory out of this Super Bowl.”

The Matthewses have earned the title of Football’s First Family.

They are only the third family to have had three generations of NFL players, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with a record seven Matthewses having played in the NFL.

The Matthews family, beginning with Jake’s grandfather, Clay Sr., have played a combined 59 seasons and 1,273 regular-season games, earning 24 Pro Bowls. Yet, Clay’s Super Bowl championship in the 2010 season is the only title among them.

Bruce Matthews had a close call, with his one trip ending in heartbreak. The Hall of Famer played 19 seasons and went to a record 14 Pro Bowls with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, but his only Super Bowl ended in that loss to the Rams when Mike Jones tackled the Titans’ Kevin Dyson just inches short of the goal line on the final play.

“You know they always do the NFL Films thing where they do a documentary of games,” said Mike Matthews, who signed with the Browns as an undrafted college free agent in 2016 but didn’t make the roster after a standout career at Texas A&M. “They did one on that Super Bowl. I swear when you go back and watch it, you still think there’s a chance they’re going to win.

“You know they’re going to lose; they’re going to come up 1-yard short. But I promise when I watch that thing, every time, I’m like, ‘Gosh, I think they’re going to win.’ One time I watched with my dad, and he was like, ‘Just turn this off. It still sickens me to this day.’ 

Bruce made his first — and only — Super Bowl trip in his 17th season. Jake made the Super Bowl in his third season after the Falcons made him the sixth overall pick following three standout seasons at A&M. The icing for Jake is it means a return home to Houston, where he played at Missouri City Elkins.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Bruce, whose youngest son, Luke, is committed in the Class of 2018 to following his three older brothers to College Station to play for the Aggies. “I’m more excited to see him make it than I was when I made it. It doesn’t matter what year you make it because it’s so timeless. In so many ways, I’m thankful he’s gotten it out of the way. Hopefully, there’ll be multiple [Super Bowls] for Jake, but you can’t count on it.”

Bruce Matthews and 11 members of his family, including three sons who were or are offensive linemen, drove to the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta in a rental van. They wore their No. 70 Falcons’ jerseys bearing “Matthews” on the nameplate and took photos with Jake on the field afterward. They will be easy to spot in the stands at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, rooting for Jake to get a ring.

“Man, it would be great,” said Kevin Matthews, who played two NFL seasons and now is in investment real estate in College Station. “Those things are getting bigger and bigger every year. Clay’s takes up like half his fist. My dad got the AFC Championship ring. It’s nice. It’s really cool. It’s full of diamonds and stuff like that.

“But it’s not quite the same. I think it would pretty cool for Jake to add that to his collection, his trophies, his accomplishments.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

Super Bowl LI

Falcons vs. Patriots, 5:30 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox (KDFW/Channel 4)