Texas A&M Aggies: Kevin Matthews

Matthews brothers relish opportunity

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- As Jake and Mike Matthews settled in to watch the BCS championship game this January, Jake thought deeply about his future and whether to stick around Texas A&M for one more season, perhaps to make a run at playing in the type of game the two were about to watch on television, or declare for the NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeMike Matthews
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsMike Matthews is playing on the O-line with his brother Jake for the first time since high school.
Naturally, Jake sought advice from his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. The two spoke on the phone at length about Jake's options before Jake decided it was best to finish out his Aggie career.

Once his parents knew, the next person he told was Mike, now a sophomore center for Texas A&M. His reaction?

"'Alright, cool,'" Jake recalls Mike saying, nonchalantly. "And then watched the game. That's just way he is."

Now the two embark on a unique opportunity, brothers playing only two spots away from each other on the No. 7 Aggies' offensive line.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Jake is now a senior who spent his first three seasons at A&M playing right tackle. But after 2012 Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel declared for the 2013 draft and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted him second overall, Jake is now manning Joeckel's old left tackle spot.

Mike, a 6-2, 285-pounder who backed up starter Patrick Lewis at center last season, played late in games when the Aggies held comfortable leads in 2012, so the two didn't have a chance to play on the field at the same time last season. With Lewis having graduated and Mike next in line to start at center, the chance to do so existed.

"It's one of the main reasons I wanted to come back and finish up my senior year here, just the opportunity to play with him," Jake said. "… It's always something real special to play with your brother, especially a sport like this and especially playing on the o-line, just because it's such a close-knit group."

The pair had the chance once before, under similar circumstances. When Jake was a high school senior and Mike -- then known as "Mikey" -- was a sophomore at Missouri City (Texas) Elkins High School, they spent a season starting at left tackle, and center, respectively.

Fast forward four years and the pair are playing together on a top-10 team and blocking for one of the country's most explosive offenses, which includes Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel.

Jake has established himself as an elite tackle. He was a first-team All-SEC selection last season, was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers’ Association of America and was projected by many to be a first round pick in the 2013 draft, had he elected to enter it. That will still likely be the case when 2014 arrives.

Mike, in his first year starting for the Aggies, has already impressed the coaching staff. His debut as a starter on Saturday in a win over Rice yielded positive results, according to Coach Kevin Sumlin.

"He handled [adjustments] very, very well," Sumlin said. "Really, after the first series, he played extremely well. I think that was evident by our ability to rush the football effectively."

For Jake, there is an adjustment phase in moving from right tackle to left tackle.

"It's definitely different," Jake said. "I played left tackle throughout high school but playing college football three years at right tackle you definitely get some tendencies. That's been a little bit of a challenge, getting used to flipping everything, your feet and all that stuff."

Sumlin calls Jake, one of the Aggies’ team captains, a classic "low maintenance, great player," the same compliment he used on Joeckel.

Outside the whistles, their personalities are distinct, according to coaches and teammates.

"I would say Mike Matthews is the more rowdy guy and Jake is more quiet," senior running back Ben Malena said. "I think with [Mike] playing the position that he does, by him being vocal it helps him a lot."

Mike agrees.

"I guess I am a little loud," he said. "[Jake] always tells me I'm annoying because I don't shut my mouth. I do a lot of talking. When I get on the field, I start yelling around a little bit. I'm kind of hyper."

Jake even compared Mike's personality to that of a former Texas A&M defensive lineman who was known for his outsized personality.

"He's like the new Spencer Nealy," Jake said. "He's always been like that growing up. You would think we were raised by different parents. He's always yelling and excited and stuff. It's fun to have someone like that on the team because he picks up the energy and gets guys excited. I'm not sure where he gets it from though."

Jake has his share of fun, too, though. Though Mike seemingly shed the "Mikey" nickname once he left high school, Jake has done his best to keep it alive.

"Everyone calls him Mike and I call him Mikey," Jake said. "It is kind of funny, because now half the guys on the team call him 'Mikey,' and it's kind of funny to see it. [Quarterback] Matt Joeckel does it the most and makes fun of him with it. It's second nature [for me] to call him Mikey, I've been calling him that since we've been running around like little kids."

Jake doesn't escape ribbing however. Offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney has gotten in a jab or two.

"I always tease Jake and tell him he's the fourth-best center in his family," said McKinney, referring to Bruce, Kevin and Mike Matthews who have all played center. "He'll be a guy who leads us and we're definitely happy to have both of those guys be a part of this program."

The pair aren't the first of the Matthews men to don the maroon-and-white, though. Their older brother Kevin Matthews, who spent three years with the Tennessee Titans and spent time in Washington Redskins camp last month, also played for the Aggies.

With Bruce being a Hall of Famer, Kevin having played in the NFL and Jake next in line, Mike said he wants to follow in his elders' footsteps. The bond he shares with Jake is a strong one.

"We spend a lot of time together," Mike said. "He's like a best friend to me and every single day we have basically the same schedule. We go to class, go to football practice, hang out there, go home, watch TV together, hang out, joke around, just like any old brother relationship."

While Mike was a big reason that Jake returned for one final season in Aggieland, there were a few others too. Jake, a university studies major in A&M's Mays Business School, is on track to earn his degree in December, three-and-a-half years after he stepped on campus. It never hurts to make your mother happy, which Jake did. Carrie Matthews was hopeful for the opportunity to see two of her five sons share the field together at least one more fall. And Jake feels like there are special things ahead for the Aggies.

"We're a great team right now and we're getting a lot of publicity," Jake said. "That was one of the main things I liked. We have a chance to do some special things and I really wanted to be a part of that."

The Aggies are thankful to have them both this season.

"Let me just tell you that I'm extremely happy to have Mike Matthews here, because I do believe if he wasn't here, Jake Matthews wouldn't be here this year," McKinney said with a smile. "We're happy about that."
[+] EnlargeJake Matthews
Patrick Green/Icon SMIJake Matthews forms one half of one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the country.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Jake Matthews is an older brother to his teammate, Mike Matthews, but to hear him speak of Mike, he almost sounds like a proud father.

They were teammates at Missouri City (Texas) Elkins High and now that Mike, a true freshman, is in Aggieland, they are again teammates for Texas A&M.

And big brother is loving it.

"With Mike, I couldn't be more proud of him, just having your little brother come in, living with him, going to class with him all the time, working out with him," Jake Matthews said. "It's pretty cool to have him around."

Both are sons of NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman and Tennessee Titans assistant coach Bruce Matthews and are part of a line of football-playing Matthews boys. Their older brother, Kevin, played at Texas A&M and is on the Titans' roster now.

Jake came in just after Kevin's career concluded in College Station but Jake has since carved out a nice career of his own. He started seven games as a true freshman, had a solid sophomore year and is now part of what is perhaps the premier tandem of offensive tackles in college football this year along with teammate Luke Joeckel. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Jake will almost certainly be an attractive NFL draft prospect whenever he decides to pursue the next level.

In the meantime, he's making sure that Mike, a reserve center, is adjusting to life in college football.

"That's my little brother," Jake said. "I've got to protect him, make sure he learns it and knows what's going on. I just want him to do well and I'm looking forward to him getting a lot better and just learning."

During fall camp, the coaches were pleased by Mike's progress, though it was briefly interrupted by a minor ankle injury suffered in a recent scrimmage. Coach Kevin Sumlin said he'd like to have Mike travel with the team this fall, even though he would be a backup center to starter Patrick Lewis, so that he can get a taste of everything before taking over as the starter for the next three seasons.

Credit: John Albright/Icon SMI
Mike Matthews is being groomed to take over as the starting center for Texas A&M next season.



"My feeling is, a year from now with Pat being gone ... that if [Mike] can handle it, I'd rather him travel and be the backup center and play in games and have three years to start as a center rather than have a brand new center next year who has never been in a game and do that," Sumlin said. "There's some people who would say that's crazy, but I think if you start in the SEC for three years at his position, that's pretty d--- good. He's got ability, he's got to learn the offense, he's got to be in those types of things, he's not ready yet, but I think over the course of the year, he'll give us some flexibility to really develop that second line for guys in case of injury or in case of substitution."

Offensive line coach B.J. Anderson said Mike has picked things up quickly.

"He's done a really nice job," Anderson said. "His football IQ is higher than most freshmen that come in here. He's picked this offense up."

Of course, the pair of Matthews boys keep their dad posted on a daily basis and Jake said they benefit from it.

"Every day I call my dad after every practice," Jake said. "He loves hearing what's going on. He wants to know how we're doing. He wants to know what we did good and what we messed up on. He loves hearing it all so Mike and I usually give him a call right when we get home. It's pretty beneficial.

"I told a lot of people, it's like having a second coach. I have coach Anderson here and then I go home and any little thing that I may have forgotten to ask him or things that I didn't know that he might be able to help me with, I can call him up 'Hey, what do you think about this?' It's a big advantage to have."

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