Kentucky WR Chris Matthews has heard the jokes about his political namesake for a number of years. “People come up to me all the time and ask me if I am him or try to make some joke. I am used to it by now.” While Matthews says he doesnt watch “Hardball” or watch a great deal of political talk shows, he does hope to become as famous as his namesake via the football field. This is a huge season for Matthews who will be counted on to provide leadership and playmaking for the Kentucky Wide Receiver corps. Matthews is not only the most physically gifted receiver on the team, but he is also the one with the biggest “big play ability”, something that UK sorely lacked last season.
Part of the reason there is so much pressure on Matthews is that last year, he didnt quite live up to some of the preseason hype. Labeled as a potential difference maker early, Matthews took time to get adjusted and acknowledged that he was often a step behind. “In that first game, I would run out for a pass, catch it and then just shake my head and wonder how I got there. Everything just happened so quickly.” Now the game comes much slower to Matthews and he is ready to showcase that differential from Day One. “The team needs me and I am ready to show them and the fans what I can do.
For the coaches, the change is already easy to observe. After a sweltering day of practice on Tuesday, Joker Phillips said, “Just watching the intensity in which Chris Matthews practices. We have been challenging him and telling him that we need him because we have two dynamic players, but how big would it be to have three. That makes a huge difference when you have another guy come with them. He does all that he is supposed to do in the blocking area, his routes had intensity in them and he attacks the football.”
Becoming that third big playmaker is goal #1 for Matthews and may be the difference between Kentucky being good and potentially taking a step to a higher level. Already Randall Cobb has tweeted that the fans should be ready to be shocked by Matthews and in my informal poll of players at Media Day, he was the one most often mentioned as a breakout player. It is time for Matthews to become a star and to take some of the attention from his political namesake. As the WR said, “I get on Google and put in ‘Chris Matthews’ and he always comes up first…my goal is to one day be the one that comes up first.”
This season is step one towards that goal.