You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

The Falcons' Pillar Pick

The process as a draft prospect came to an end for Jake Matthews on May 8, 2014, but the journey to being a Falcon had just begun as AtlantaFalcons.com followed his first 24 hours with the team.

Story by Atlanta Falcons May 23rd, 2014

talk, talk, PLAY

It’s all talk for months as an NFL Draft prospect. Experts talk. Fans talk. As a prospect, you’re expected to do quite a bit of it yourself. When all you want to do is play football, the desire is met by more chances to talk. Jake Matthews, with his easy-going attitude, takes it in stride with just more than 24 hours until the first team goes on the clock at the NFL Draft. A welcome respite comes as the prospects take part in a Play 60 event with New York City kids at Chelsea Pier.

_MG_8718.jpg
_MG_6550.jpg
_MG_6551.jpg
AP231787786196.jpg

atop the Nfl world

Radio City Music Hall has become synonymous with the NFL Draft, and the 30 players invited to attend the 2014 edition in the green room get a chance to see the world from atop the Radio City marquee. Below them stood the media and a growing crowd of fans and passers-by. All down the street was a sea of camera phones in the air from people trying to get a photo of their favorite prospect. Soon after, shouts of “Go Gamecocks!” were met with shouts of “Go Aggies!” as fans drew dividing lines.

_MG_6699.jpg
_MG_6706.jpg
_MG_6739.jpg

Special for Mom, too

The 2014 NFL Draft fell on Mother’s Day weekend, a special occasion for any family with a celebrated matriarch. The Matthews clan is large in number and size, with Jake standing at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, and Carrie Matthews joins other mothers of the 2014 NFL Draft prospects as she’s escorted down the red carpet by her son just hours before he’s selected. The prospects got a bit of a different media tour on the red carpet as sports media members were joined by the likes of MTV, Fox Business and even international media outlets. They were asked everything from “Where do you think you’ll be picked?” to “What’s one item of guy code that should never be broken in a locker room?”

AP1220645386.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_6945.jpg
_MG_6951.jpg
AP650416924370.jpg

the pick is in

For months, the questions swirled. Would the Falcons trade up? Would they trade back? Who are they targeting? As the Houston Texans went on the clock shortly after 8 p.m. on May 8, the questions started to be met with answers. When the Falcons went on the clock at No. 6, it didn’t take long for the final answer to come. The name on the card was Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews.


AP908362157985.jpg

What are these photos about?

AP224143112067.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_7033.jpg

More talk

After Jake greets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage for a photo opportunity, he’s met offstage by Falcons football communications manager Brian Cearns, who briefs him on what’s about to happen, and AtlantaFalcons.com’s Matt Moore, who mics him up for video. Little does Jake know that he’s about to see every square inch of Radio City Music Hall in the next hour-plus. He hits stops along Radio Row, chatting on-air with Mark Schlereth and Jay Glazer, who tells Jake about how great the Falcons organization is. After Radio Row, it’s off to talk to NFL Network and NFL.com. All the while, the grin planted on Jake’s face seemed permanent. In brief breaks between media engagements, he’d silently reflect on his journey and give a little fist pump.

_MG_7042.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_7062.jpg
_MG_7107.jpg
_MG_7085.jpg
_MG_7103.jpg
_MG_7118.jpg
_MG_7125.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_8825.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_7128.jpg
_MG_7134.jpg
_MG_7144.jpg

Family ties

The minutes seemed to drag as Matthews spoke to various media members and outlets after being selected. He began to get anxious to get back to his family, which had been waiting for him back in the green room. In addition to his mother, Carrie, Jake was joined by his father and Pro Football Hall-of-Fame member Bruce Matthews, his brothers and sisters, the youngest among them Gwen, who was excited by all the commotion.

_MG_7174.jpg
_MG_7172.jpg
_MG_7177.jpg
_MG_7179.jpg
_MG_7162.jpg

Media Tour continues

The whirlwind kept moving as Matthews was escorted to the Rockettes’ dressing room inside Radio City Music Hall. He waits outside the door as Mike Evans, his Texas A&M teammate who had been selected by the Bucs, finishes up his time in front of the Tampa Bay media. It must be 100 degrees in this area of Radio City Music Hall and Jake starts feeling the heat as the adrenaline begins to wane. But it’s not long before he gets a second dose of it as he’s ushered inside to sit in front of a backdrop with a camera feed connected to the Atlanta media back in Flowery Branch, where eager reporters pepper the newest Falcons tackle with questions. Once he’s done there, it’s off to his formal press conference in front of the media members gathered in New York.

_MG_7185.jpg
_MG_7187.jpg
_MG_7191.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_7199.jpg
_MG_7206.jpg
_MG_8839.jpg
_MG_8840.jpg
_MG_8842.jpg

true colors show

Tide’s #OurColors campaign gave fans a first look at the recent draft picks with their new team colors and Matthews was only too happy to oblige. In front of the camera, Matthews held his new jersey and the smile that had seemed permanent began to fade as his serious football face took over. The photographer told him to have fun with the shoot and the smile returned. Once finished, Tide asked for Jake’s Twitter password to tweet out the photo from his official account, but he couldn’t remember his password. A quick e-mail to his agent uncovered that bit of information and he was off to the next engagement.

_MG_7197.jpg
tide-pic.jpg

A few moments of silence

The talking stopped — well, for the most part — when Matthews sat at a table to sign 56 clear strips that would be placed on his draft night trading card for Pinnacle.

_MG_7213.jpg
_MG_7222.jpg
_MG_8850.jpg

The Secret is out

Matthews enters an elevator in Radio City Music Hall. He’s been talking all day, but he’s eager to share a story about what’s up his sleeve with Falcons staff members. He pulls his arm up and reveals the cuff of his dress shirt. Attached is a cufflink, the head of a bird with glowing red eyes. Matthews says he secretly wanted to be a Falcon and was wearing his falcon cufflinks for good luck.

_MG_7193.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_7223.jpg

off to atlanta

At 10 a.m., a large van arrives at the hotel to transport Jake and his family to the Teterboro Airport, where the Falcons’ private plane waits for their arrival. While the family mills around in the airport, Jake has to remind his family to watch what they say because he’s still mic’d up. His observation is met with a round of laughter.

_MG_8772.jpg
_MG_8799.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_8787.jpg
_MG_8792.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_8802.jpg

back in media mode

After a photo opportunity in front of the plane, Jake and the Matthews clan load up as Jake takes a seat next to Brian Cearns. Cearns iPad is filled with Jake’s schedule for the next six hours and it all looks so overwhelming. Media engagements continue today, but chances to meet with Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith and his staff awaits.

_MG_8809.jpg
_MG_8816-2.jpg
_MG_8829.jpg
_MG_8833-2.jpg

not falcon-y enough

Jake got on the plane wearing a light blue dress shirt and dark red tie, which came under the watchful eye of his agent and mom. They say the combo doesn’t quite have “the Falcon look.” So Jake changes into a white dress shirt and sports a tie with a lighter shade of red to complete the look. After that, it’s a bit of down time with a chance to fuel up before the big business day in Atlanta.

_MG_8835-2.jpg
_MG_8840-2.jpg
_MG_8842-2.jpg

What are these photos about?

_MG_8849-2.jpg

home again

It’s not the last touchdown Jake will have a chance to experience in Atlanta. The Falcons plane puts its wheels on the ground in Gainesville, Ga., around 1:15 p.m. and a large limo bus makes its way to team headquarters down the highway in Flowery Branch shortly after. Just a few weeks earlier, Matthews was in town to visit the Falcons and he could tell then that it just felt like home. And now he’s back again.

_MG_8851-2.jpg

A brief history lesson

Jake Matthews may be the future, but he took a moment to respect the past as he entered Falcons headquarters and made a beeline to Heritage Hall, which celebrates Falcons players of the past. He takes a moment to read the placards about hallmark moments in Falcons history and awed at the napkin Arthur Blank used as a contract to seal a preliminary deal to purchase the team from the Smith family. Speaking aloud to himself, he thought about how he will look in red and black.

JakeMatthews_050914_0005.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0006.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0008.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0019.JPG

meeting the deciders

Jake was escorted up the stairs where an eager Dimitroff waited to shake his hand and meet his family. After exchanging pleasantries, Dimitroff apologies for making Jake wait so long to be taken, saying that the team tried to jump up to snag him and felt fortunate that they could select him at No. 6. Jake then introduces his family to Dimitroff one-by-one.


JakeMatthews_050914_0025.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0027.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0032.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0038.JPG

'this is awesome'

Matthews steps into the executive board room as head coach Mike Smith walks in with a grin that barely fit through the doorway. Smith was animated as he greeted Jake and met Bruce Matthews for the first time. The two walked out onto the balcony and had a few minutes to chat about the process and the trip while Jake’s family took in the view of the football fields. Smith told Jake that the two would be getting right to work as rookies were set to report in just two days, which was met by another big smile from Jake. The media tour doesn’t suit him, but hard work certainly does. There’s a moment of silence as Jake looks out over the field, with a smile, before saying, “This is awesome.”

JakeMatthews_050914_0040.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0071.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0058.JPG

taking the official tour

Jake is led on a tour of Falcons headquarters, where he gets to see the locker room he’ll occupy, as well as the facilities available to him in the training and recovery rooms. He spends some time with assistant athletic trainer Eric Avila before being whisked down to AtlantaFalcons.com studios, where he sits down for a one-on-one interview with Nancy Mousa.

JakeMatthews_050914_0075.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0077.JPG

What are these photos about?

JakeMatthews_050914_0091.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0093.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0097.JPG

'your goal is to pick a pillar'

It’s 3:30 p.m. and the Atlanta media is gathered in the Falcons’ team meeting room. The Matthews family has enough representatives to occupy the entire front row of Jake’s introductory press conference. Blank opens the presser with compliments on Bruce and Carrie Matthews and the family they have raised together. Dimitroff takes his turn at the mic and explains a bit about why Jake was the target all along. “When you pick the sixth overall pick, from an organizational standpoint, your goal is to pick a pillar for the organization. That is your goal, and we feel very strongly that our acquisition yesterday was a pillar pick,” he said. It’s then time for Jake to talk again, but the smile still looks as fresh as it did a night before: “Throughout this whole process, I really could tell, whether it was doing workouts or visiting, Atlanta always felt like the right place. Secretly and honestly, I was really hoping I would end up here.”

JakeMatthews_050914_0140.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0126.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0156.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0198.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0232.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0123.JPG

new number, new era

The incredible 48-hour whirlwind from 24 hours before the draft to 24 hours after ends with Jake sporting a new number. He had to choose between Nos. 70 and 77 while in New York and settled on 70, which emblazons a jersey with his name on it as he poses for photos with Falcons brass and his family. It signifies a new era in Falcons history and another new beginning for Jake. It also represents an end to all the talk and the commencement of what the Falcons hope will be a long and historic career in Atlanta.
JakeMatthews_050914_0235.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0252.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0256.JPG
JakeMatthews_050914_0272.JPG

What are these photos about?

JakeMatthews_050914_0277.JPG