How Jordan Matthews, who caught 112 passes last season for Vanderbilt, bonded with Chip Kelly
By Jordan Lockridge, The Tennessean
Jordan Matthews stood next to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly and chatted for a long time at Vanderbilt‘s Pro Day six weeks ago.
That conversation — and all the ones that followed — obviously went well.
Matthews, the SEC’s career leading receiver in yards and catches, went to the Eagles in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday as the 42nd overall pick.
Philadelphia traded up with the Titans to acquire the pick, dealing Tennessee the 54th pick and a fourth-round selection (122nd overall).
Matthews was at New York’s Radio City Music Hall with his family for the announcement. An emotional Matthews had tears in his eyes when his name was called. He stood and embraced his mother, Brenda, for several seconds before turning to slap hands with his father, Rod.
“Coming out of high school, a lot of people didn’t ever think I’d be at this point,” Matthews said during an interview on stage. “I just put my head down, made sure I worked. It was a culmination of hard work, prayer, just having faith that God is going to put you where you need to be. And he believed that it was in Philadelphia. I’m so thankful. I’m ready to get to work.”
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Matthews was the seventh receiver taken in the draft and the second in the second round. He was the first Commodore to go in the first two rounds since Casey Hayward in 2012. Chris Williams was Vanderbilt’s last first-round pick in 2008.
Most analysts had Matthews slotted for the second round. Matthews went three picks after Jacksonville took Southern Cal receiver Marqise Lee.
Philadelphia was one of three teams Matthews visited publicly before the draft along with Carolina and Tennessee. He worked out for four or five other teams, but it was evident early on that the Eagles would be in play.
Matthews will be asked to help replace the production of Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who was released by the Eagles in March. Jackson led the team in receiving last season with 82 catches for 1,332 yards. Riley Cooper is the leading returning receiver with 47 catches for 835 yards.
Third-year quarterback Nick Foles, a Pro Bowl selection himself, is Kelly’s signal caller moving forward.
“I’m going to go compete against myself and against the guys in that locker room,” Matthews said. “DeSean Jackson is a great pro. He’s an All-Pro guy. So at the same time, starting off my career, I don’t even need to be in the same sentence as him. I’m going to give him his respect. I’m going make sure I’m the best player I can be.”
Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, now at Penn State, was among those tweeting congratulations.
“Big time WR w/an even bigger HEART! Really happy for u and ur family! Welcome to PA homeboy, road trip to Happy Valley!” Franklin tweeted.
Vanderbilt’s former standout wide receiver Jordan Matthews has been waiting for the NFL draft at home where he visited his family’s church, his longtime school Madison Academy and where he trains as draft day approaches.
Matthews’ former Vanderbilt teammates chimed in as well.
“CATCH ME ON THE PHILLY BANDWAGON THIS YEAR BOYYYYY!!!!!!” quarterback Josh Grady tweeted.
“Congrats my boy! Well deserved!” fellow receiver Jonathan Krause posted.
Matthews proved one of Vanderbilt’s top playmakers and most reliable weapons in history. In 2013, he set school records for receptions (112) and receiving yards (1,477) in a season.
Vanderbilt figures to have several more of its players drafted in the latter rounds. Wide receiver Chris Boyd (dismissed from the team in 2013), offensive tackle Wesley Johnson, safety Kenny Ladler and cornerback Andre Hal are among those with a good shot to be selected.
Matthews waited four hours in the green room Thursday night without hearing his name. Some thought the Eagles would consider him with their first-round pick, but they went defense, selecting Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith at No. 26.
“I think it played out the way we were hoping it played out,” Kelly said. “We really liked (Matthews), and we had the big conversation (Thursday) in the draft room with him and Marcus, how we do it. We thought the pass rusher would go first so we took (Smith), and then kind of held our breath on what it would take to get up (to draft Matthews). We didn’t think at 54 he was going to be around.
“The one thing that he does is he can catch the ball in traffic. He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. He’s got such a wingspan and will go up and get it. He can play both inside and outside. We’re probably going to start him inside (at the slot position) if we’ve got Jeremy Maclin on one side and Coop on another side, and then we throw him inside.”
The Eagles added more depth at receiver with Josh Huff, their third-round pick and one of Kelly’s former players at Oregon.