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Direct Snaps: Matthews Stayed the Course, Landed in NFL

Posted Dec 1, 2016

Direct Snaps is a story series contributed by Tennessee Titans players sharing their perspectives, both on and off the field, with fans. This week's entry comes from wide receiver Rishard Matthews.

There was a day, not all that long ago, I had to come to terms with reality. That reality was not what you see right now—playing in the NFL, scoring touchdowns and having one of the best seasons of my career.

My reality was working at the JUCO library.

Six years ago, I was in a much different place. The NFL was still a dream in my mind, but I was far from it. My story is crazy, and a lot of people don’t know the journey that brought me here.

I grew up in a military family, so I got used to moving around a lot because my dad was in the Marines. Even though I grew up in that strict way of life, I always said I was going to play football. Everybody that knew me knew I was going to play sports.

Coming out of high school, I got recruited by Oregon and committed to play there. But I didn’t score high enough on the SAT or the ACT, so I become a non-qualifier and ended up having to go to junior college. I started off at Santa Ana College. Things were going good there before I got in a car accident. I was the passenger in the car and messed up my sternum in the accident. The sternum has to heal on its own, so I lost a lot of weight during that process because I couldn’t train or work out. I didn’t feel right playing football after that, and I ended up having to transfer schools to Orange Coast College. I did the spring semester there and ended up being two credits short to be eligible to play for that next season. I remember the feeling I had at that point… what are you going to do from here?

I decided to move to Texas to live with my uncle and go to another junior college, Northlake College, to work on getting my GPA up. They didn’t have a football team. I played in some six-on-six leagues, worked out and tried to find people to run routes with, but I got to a place of kind of just accepting that football was probably over for me.

Meanwhile, I started working at the school library and getting comfortable there. I liked interacting with all the kids, I started finding my place and I knew where all the books were at. I realized you’ve got to accept what happens to you. I wasn’t going to sit there and whine about my place in life.

But then Bakersfield College reached out to me and I ended up packing up and moving back to California to play there, still hoping to end up at a DI school eventually. By the time I passed my classes to qualify for a bigger program, pretty much everyone told me all of their scholarships were passed out, but Nevada said they had a few spots left. I didn't even take a recruiting trip. I moved up there on a Saturday, got into the dorms and started class on Monday, not really knowing anything about the university or the football team.

After two years at Nevada, I was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2012 and spent four years there, which was the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent in one place in my life. Now I’m a Titan and hopefully I can make Tennessee my home, as well.

When I look back on it, I can see how it’s all part of the process. I’ve had failures and I’ve had to go in different directions than I planned at times. But being here means that much more knowing everything I’ve been through just to make it.

I went back to Texas recently and decided to stop by Northlake College while I was there, just to go and reminisce on everything. Working at the JUCO library was my reality just six years ago. Being back there made me think about the importance of being positive in all life situations thrown at you. I could have let so many things bring me down, but instead, I was just being thankful that I was in that position to learn.

My journey has taught me a lot. But more than anything, I learned to stay the course. Remain positive, no matter what situation you’re in. Anything can happen. And don’t let anybody take away your dreams.