NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans made receiver Rishard Matthews a priority in free agency this past offseason, and signed him to a multi-year deal.
Since, he's developed into one of the team's top playmakers.
Titans Online sat down with Matthews recently about a number of topics, on the field and off it.
Here's how the conversation went….
After spending your first four NFL seasons with the Dolphins, you headed into free agency. After garnering interest from other teams, you ended up signing with the Titans. What made Tennessee a good fit?**
Matthews: Just the overall opportunity, really. I knew I could come in and compete, and contribute right away. And I wanted to be part of getting an organization headed in the right direction.
What was the adjustment period like for you at the start with a new team? After a slow start in September, you took off in October, and ended up scoring six touchdowns in a span of seven games. What changed?
Matthews: A lot of things. After being somewhere for four years, you get so used to how things are done and how things are, and it was different. I wouldn't say there were some growing pains here early on, but maybe bumps in the road is the best way to describe it. Not being on the same page with some people, but it is what it is now. Things are on the right track.
Heading into the season finale, you've already set career highs for catches (56), receiving yards (831) and touchdowns (8). How would you describe your first season with the Titans?
Matthews: I think it's gone well. I feel like I've had the best season of my career, and I plan to just continue to grow. I still don't feel like I've played my best football. So hopefully I can continue to grow and get better as the years go on.
I know you grew up in a military family. Your dad, Andre, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant and your half-brother also served in the Marines. How did that background shape you as an individual?
Matthews:** It just taught me how to be respectful toward everybody, but also it taught me you have to give respect in order to receive respect, and respect your elders and everything. It just taught me how to be tough, and it taught me how to adjust to all situations. That's what they do in the military, they move around and adjust and have to be able to make any place home.
I've talked to you about your half-brother, Christopher Ruiz, on several occasions. He was killed while serving as a retired Marine working as a private defense contractor in Afghanistan in October 2015. He served in the Marines for 10 years. How did his death impact your life?
Matthews: He meant a lot to me. He was my brother, and you can't replace family. When something like that happens, you just have a different perspective on life and you don't take certain things for granted any more. I try to a better job of keeping communication with that side of my family. It is just a different perspective on life. Your life can be taken at any time, whether you are doing good or bad. God takes anyone He wants to. I think about (Christopher) all the time, and wear wristbands (with his name on it) and I have stuff hanging in my car for him. I find myself just talking with him lot.
There's no doubt you paid your dues to get to the NFL. After attending Bakersfield College and Santa Ana College, you finished at Nevada. In the 2012 NFL Draft, you went undrafted. Does that entire experience make you appreciate where you are today even more?
Matthews: It definitely does. I think it definitely gave me a chip on my shoulder, too, and it made me want to show people I belong in this league. I wouldn't say I ever doubted myself, but the process was bumpy. It wasn't an easy road. I guess at some points I thought it wasn't going to happen, but I stuck with it. I have been saying I was going to be doing this since I was young.
You were born on San Diego, went to school on the West Coast and played the last four seasons at Miami. How have you enjoyed living in Nashville?**
Matthews: It is way different from where I was the last four years especially, but it has been great. I have a family, so it is a good place to raise a kid and just sit back and enjoy the town. There's a lot of good places to eat. One thing I really like is experiencing the different seasons. In Miami you don't get to experience all the different seasons, you get a tropical season and then you get sunny, hot weather. So it has been good.
What do you want defenders to think when they hear the name Rishard Matthews?
Matthews: Tough. I want them to know when they line up against me, it is not going to be easy. Some defenders line up against guys and they are just like, 'Oh, this is going to be an easy one.' When they line up against me, I want them to know it is not going to be an easy day.
When teammates and coaches think of Rishard Matthews, what do you want them to think?
Matthews: I just want them to think I'm a good football player, and a tough playmaker who will fight. At the end of the day it is what you do on the field to gain respect in this league. And I want them to know I am a team player.
After the best season of your NFL career, what will change for you heading into 2017?
Matthews: I feel like this year I showed what I am capable of doing, and hopefully it is a smooth road from here on out as far as being a guy people can depend on. But in the offseason, I plan to just keep working hard, and get ready for the next season.