HOUSTON — Every time they watch it, they think he’s going to score.
That’s what happens when Jake Matthews sees replays of the end of Super Bowl XXXIV with his father, Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, who was a member of the Titans in that game against the Rams. They see Kevin Dyson catch the pass, turn toward the end zone, get wrapped up by Mike Jones, and stretch his arms out with the ball.
He never makes it, though.
“Every time we watch that game, my dad says this a lot, it’s such a letdown because he could’ve been a Super Bowl winner,” Jake Matthews said of the Rams’ 23-16 win and that dramatic final play. “It’s just such a letdown to know they came up so short.”
One stinking yard.
“But you know what?” Matthews added. “It’s my turn now. Let’s make a good memory out of this Super Bowl.”
That’s his goal as the starting left tackle for the Falcons, preparing to face the Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. To give his family a memory they’ll enjoy watching over the years, rather than the agonizing one they’ve been stuck with since 2000.
And he’ll get to do it in a town where his family has deep roots but a sense of unfinished business. Bruce spent most of his career here as a member of the Oilers before the franchise moved to Tennessee. Now Jake returns to Houston, his hometown.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’re driving around on the bus, going from place to place, practicing at Rice, and I recognize it all. This is where I grew up. It’s fun. And knowing my family is right down the road, it hasn’t been as much of a stress on me. Everyone is trying to figure out how they can get hotel rooms for their family and stuff, but my family is already here. All I have to do is get them tickets.”
As familiar as Matthews is with Houston, that’s how familiar the city is with him and that name that means so much to the oldtime Oilers fans.
The Mannings may be considered the first family of football thanks to the exploits of Archie, Peyton and Eli at quarterback. But the Matthews clan goes even deeper in NFL lore. It began with 88-year-old Clay Matthews Sr., an offensive lineman in the 1950s and Jake’s grandfather, and carried on with his father Bruce and uncle Clay, who were decorated players in the 1980s and ’90s. The current generation includes Jake, his brother Kevin, and cousins Clay and Casey.
“I take a ton of pride in that,” Jake said of being the seventh in his family to play in the NFL.
It comes with a sense of obligation, too.
“My whole life has been like that since playing on a peewee team,” Jake said. “‘Hey, that’s Matthews’ kid, we have to expect a little something more from him.’ But I love it. I love the respect that comes with it, and at the same time it’s a lot to live up to. I always try to do things the right way, work hard every day, and follow my dad’s lead.”
It took Bruce Matthews 17 NFL seasons to make it to his Super Bowl as a player. Now, 17 years later, he gets to watch his son play in the game, too.
“I have to take advantage of my opportunity because I have living proof that this doesn’t come easy,” Jake Matthews said. “I have to take care of it on Sunday.”