Before every football game, Jordan Matthews watches highlights of his cousin.
It’s not a bad guy to watch.
Matthews is related to Jerry Rice, who is widely considered the NFL’s greatest receiver of all time. Rice is Matthews’ mom’s first cousin.
It would be a stretch to say Matthews is going to be the next Rice considering he’s not even in the NFL yet. But Matthews is working towards it. And he could be just what the Ravens are looking for.
The Ravens want a reliable pass-catcher in third-down situations, somebody who simply makes the play whether they’re in press or zone coverage. That’s Matthews, who is projected as a late first- or second-round pick.
Rice was the most productive receiver in NFL history with 22,895 career receiving yards and 1,549 catches. Matthews was the most productive receiver in SEC history with 3,759 career receiving yards on 262 catches.
Matthews doesn’t have an extremely close relationship with Rice. He first met him when he was 12 or 13 when the family went to see Rice play for the Oakland Raiders. He talked to him once on the phone during college before a game against Kentucky.
“I’m not big on calling him and bothering him,” Matthews said. “I’ve learned enough from him just from watching his film and trying to emulate him with things in my game. You can’t ask for more than that.
“Seeing how his work ethic brought him from Starksville, Mississippi to that point in his life, it makes you want to go out and do something on your own.”
Matthews certainly takes the initiative.
He contacted Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage to request film on the cornerbacks that he would be practicing against in the Senior Bowl. When he didn’t get it, he pulled up as many YouTube clips as he could find.
He stayed after practice on Monday and Tuesday to get extra throws in with Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, then said they would get in the film room together later that night. No other players stayed after practice.
“I think those things are necessary if you want to be the player you want to be,” Matthews said. “I feel like those are things that should be required. Proper preparation prevents poor performance. If you fail to prepare, that’s preparing to fail. I don’t ever want to be that person who comes out here blind.”
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Matthews had a bit of a slow start at the Senior Bowl, but was excellent on Tuesday and good again on Wednesday. He is physical enough to get off press coverage, runs good routes and gets open. He juked one defender badly on Wednesday, drawing “ooohs” from the crowd.
There is a pack of junior wide receivers that may be drafted ahead Matthews. There’s Clemson’s explosive Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M’s big-bodied Mike Evans, Southern California’s smooth Marquise Lee and Penn State’s physical Allen Robinson.
They may measure out quicker, bigger, and more physically gifted than Matthews at the combine, but Matthews shines in the competitive practice environment of the Senior Bowl rather than in tights.
“I think this is an opportunity for me to come out here and compete and show who I am as a football player,” Matthews said. “I’m just glad everyone could see that I compete.”