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Vandy WR Jordan Matthews Showcases Hands, Strength & Speed at NFL Combine

Posted Feb 23, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Much emphasis by analysts will be placed on the times that receivers and running backs clocked Sunday in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but Titans general manager Ruston Webster said it’s important to focus on receivers’ hands.

The Titans have used high picks in each of the past two drafts on receivers, selecting Kendall Wright in the first round (20th overall) of 2012 and trading up to land Justin Hunter early in the second round (34th overall) a year ago. Wright led the Titans with 94 receptions, and Hunter led the Titans with 19.7 yards per catch this season.

Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews participates in a drill Sunday at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, which was faster than some had expected.

Webster was asked Thursday about Vanderbilt senior Jordan Matthews, the SEC’s all-time leader with 262 career receptions, who measured in at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds with elongated hands that measured 10-3/8 inches.

“The guy is a heck of a player, and eventually, you’ve got to look at the film and see what he’s done and give him credit for it,” Webster said. “He’s a very good receiver. He’s competitive, he’s tough, a lot of positive traits, good route runner, good hands. It’s funny, because with receivers, you always talk about speed, but you should be talking about the hands first. The first thing they have to do is be able to catch the ball, and Jordan Matthews can definitely do that.”

Matthews’ college career ended with 3,759 yards and 24 TDs. He returned for his senior season and set an SEC record with 112 catches (for 1,477 yards) and also earned a degree in Economics in three-and-a-half years.  

“I wanted to enter the National Football League as a full-grown man,” Matthews said Friday during his media session. “I wanted to make sure that I developed myself in every area. I also wanted to make sure that I graduated. Now I can go into the NFL and wake up and go to sleep as a football player. I don’t have to worry about going back to school. The Economics degree is in the bag and I can put my sole focus on being the best football player I can be each day.”

Matthews said that he had a number in mind for his time in the 40 but did not specify. Titans RB Chris Johnson set the combine record in 2008 by clocking a time of 4.24 seconds.

“I feel like I have definitely shown my explosiveness. The scouts, they have all watched the film and I have never been caught,” Matthews said. “I have played four years in high school and four years of college and I still haven’t been caught. I know where my speed is and I know I am one of the fastest guys in the country if not the fastest with the ball in my hands, but right now the goal is to run the 40 and that is what I am focused on. I am not going to have a ball when I line up on that white line so I have been working on my start and working on my finish and … I am hoping I can put on a show.”

Matthews’ official time was 4.46 seconds on Sunday, a day after he did 21 reps (tied for second-most among WRs) of 225 pounds in the bench press (click here for NFL.com’s Results Tracker). He said he considered the drill important, even though it may not show ways that receivers can elude defenders.

Jordan Matthews bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times Saturday, tying for the second-highest total among receivers.

Vanderbilt cornerback Dre Hal and safety Kenny Ladler participated in media sessions Sunday and will be on the field Tuesday. They said they weren’t surprised by Matthews doing well at the combine and expect him to do well in the NFL.

“Jordan tore it up today. I’m going to have to show him up,” Hal said. “I’m proud of him though. I’m so glad he did that today. Every time we did one-on-ones, we went against each other just to make sure we were going against the best competition. I was the best corner on the team and he was the best receiver on the team so we wanted to get the best competition on every rep, every play.”

Matthews’ cousin, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, ran a 4.59 in 1985, which was considered slow for NFL standards at the position.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was at that combine as a prospect and shared an anecdote about the experience during an event for season ticket holders last week when asked by “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith about evaluating players.

“Jerry Rice was in my group and he didn’t run a stellar 40-yard dash, but I can’t remember anybody ever running him down on a football field, so how do you make that a tangible part of evaluating a guy?,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t evaluate his heart and his passion for the game, so as far as having an exact process, you have to think about, ‘This is what we want, this is how we prepare and most of the time you’re going to get it right.”

In addition to the on-field activities, all NFL clubs set up 15-minute interviews with up to 60 of the more than 330 players who were invited to the combine and will continue to review film to prepare for May’s NFL Draft.

Matthews said he was proud to capitalize on his opportunity at Vanderbilt and wants to do so in the NFL.

“It has been a blessing. A lot of people would have said I shouldn’t be here, a two-star recruit out of Madison, Alabama, a private Christian (high) school and no one had ever gone Division I from that school before,” Matthews said. “A lot of people said I should focus on playing basketball or do something else or go to Vanderbilt and get your Economics degree and go on Wall Street and work with stocks and bonds. But God had a different plan for my life. It is just a blessing and I am just trying to make the most of it.”

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