Bruce Matthews is one of the greatest players to ever play in the NFL’s trenches. A 14-time Pro Bowl selection, the durable offensive tackle did all of the dirty work up front so the skill-position players on offense had the opportunity to flourish and make big plays.
The only thing that eluded him in his Hall of Fame career was a Super Bowl championship. However, his son, Jake Matthews, will get an opportunity to accomplish that feat on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
“We were just talking about [how] it took him 17 years … to get to the Super Bowl, and it took me three,” Jake Mathews told reporters on Wednesday. “He was a little envious of that.”
Including the postseason, Bruce played in 278 games in his career before he finally stepped foot on the game’s biggest stage. On the other hand, Jake has only played in 49 games in his career and is going to the Super Bowl in his first postseason trip.
“He never won one,” Jake said of the Super Bowl. “So it’s my chance to win one.”
Bruce came painfully close to winning a Lombardi in the same stadium where Jake won the NFC title game. In fact, his team lost by a mere yard, as Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson was stopped short of the goal line as the clock expired in Super Bowl XXXIV.
“I remember them busting out the confetti, and I thought the scored,” Jake said. “Then the game was over, and they lost by a yard.”
When this game took place, Jake was only 7 years old. He doesn’t recall many details pertaining to his first Super Bowl experience and said he was “trapped in the hotel” playing video games because his young age prevented him from being able to experience the festivities.
“The fact that I’m playing in one now is still pretty crazy,” Jake said.
What’s even crazier – and more special – for Jake is the Super Bowl is in Houston, a place where he was born and where his father played for the Oilers. Jake returned to Houston in his teenage years in 2009-10, when Bruce became an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans.
“Going back to the town where I was born and raised, where my dad played for so long, it really is a blessing,” Jake said. “We’ve just got to get there and finish it.”
For Bruce, witnessing Atlanta advance to the Super Bowl was a vivid reminder of how close he was to winning one. He said, watching Jake bask in the glory of the moment was “about as cool as it can get.”
Jake is the seventh in the Matthews’ family tree to play in the NFL. In order to get to the Super Bowl, he had to defeat his cousin, Clay Matthews III, in the NFC Championship game last Sunday. There have been 207 father-son combos play in the NFL, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With that being said, the Matthews have set a more impressive standard of excellence and are only the third family to have three generations compete at the professional level.
Going in to Super Bowl LI, Jake is taking the most valuable lesson he learned from his father with him.
“From a young age, it’s always been if you commit to something, one, you’re going to finish it; and two, you’re going to give it everything you’ve got,” he said.
Jake is still coming to terms with the thought of standing next to his father on the field in Houston with confetti falling down and the Lombardi Trophy in his hands.
You work all year to actually get to this point right now,” Jake said, “sometimes you have to snap back into it and realize how big this moment is.”