For Jake Matthews, Houston is more than just a one-week pit stop for the NFL money machine, or the host city of Super Bowl 51.
It’s where he grew up, and where he hopes his family grows up one day.
“I love it,” Matthews said on Tuesday at the Memorial City Mall Ice Rink, where players and coaches gathered for Day 2 of their Super Bowl 51 media obligations. “I think it’s a great place to live. I’ve got nothing but good memories with it.
“I hopefully one day look forward to moving back here with a family and raising a family here. So yeah, I just love it.”
Now the left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, and likely 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan, Matthews has deep roots here in the city. He was born and raised in Missouri City, went to Elkins High School, where he became one of the nation’s best high school football players. When it came time for college, he headed only an hour, 45 minutes north, to Texas A&M.
A week of national media coverage, and the armfuls of reporters and TV and radio people descending on the downtown area, should do the city some good. A slight boost for the local economy, and maybe even for its reputation. (It’s the fourth-most populous city in the country, and sixth-biggest media market, National Media. Stop treating it like a flyover).
Either way, Matthews says, Houston holds a special place in his heart.
“I love this city,” Matthews said.
On the field, Matthews, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Houston Oilers left tackle Bruce Matthews and cousin of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, has quietly been at the center of one of the more surprising runs in recent NFL history.
One of two bookends on maybe the league’s most underrated offensive line, Matthews has played a pivotal part of a Falcons offense that has drawn comparisons to “The Greatest Show on Turf,” and hopes to beat New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on Sunday.
All as line play has eroded league-wide, thanks in part to spread offenses at the college level, and restrictions on practices in the pros.
“Even leaving college, everyone was telling me, Oh, you’ll have this figured out,” Matthews said. “You’re coming from a football family. No one knows it better than you do. But coming to the NFL, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that. Especially as an offensive lineman. The level of talent you’re gonna go against. How much more you need to prepare. It’s a grind. It takes special guys to be able to do it.”
Whatever the state of offensive line play around the league, Matthews says he’s dialed in to doing whatever possible to get one last win.
If they can do it, the fact that they’re doing it on Houston would make it that much sweeter.
“I couldn’t be happier that, one, I’m playing in the Super Bowl, and two, it’s in my hometown. So I’m excited to be here, excited to get it done.”