Buried on the depth chart and limited to special teams for much of his first three NFL seasons, Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews acknowledges he momentarily let his emotions get the best of him during the offseason, before a pivotal conversation with a team legend reversed his outlook.
“I talk to Rishard probably once a month … he’s my favorite receiver,” says recently-named Top 50 All-Time Dolphins player O.J. McDuffie. “The things he was going through off the field this year – about the trade talks, the wanting to get released thing – I just told him, ‘Stick to the grind. Continue doing what you’re doing and working hard.’ He came in to the OTAs, mini-camp and training camp with a whole new attitude, and he can’t be denied on the football field now.”
Matthews – who entered his fourth-year campaign as one of only two incumbent wideouts on Miami’s revamped receiving corps – cemented a starting role, separating himself from his peers by utilizing his size and strength as both a pass-catcher and blocker.
“I’m a bigger receiver, so I do more when it comes to coming out of breaks and I take pride in catching the ball over the middle,” he says. “If somebody tries to lay a big hit on me, it doesn’t really affect me. I try to make them feel it more than I feel it.”
Originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, Matthews showed flashes of his immense potential early in his career – hauling in 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Week 10 of the 2013 season – setting the stage for his eye-opening start to 2015.
“I think people forget that this is my fourth year,” he says smiling. “I was here two years ago when (Brandon) Gibson went down and I contributed a lot. People are acting like it’s the first time I’ve made catches or done something. It’s good to still be here … (be) a part of this great organization, great people and great staff.”
The University of Nevada product has started all six games – already matching his total from his first 38 NFL appearances – and is on pace to not only shatter his career highs in nearly every statistical category, but rack up the fifth-most single-season receiving yards (1,168) and touchdowns (11) in franchise history.
DolfansNYC caught up with No. 18 to discuss his remarkable success, adjusting to fantasy football stardom, enjoying family life and more.
What do you feel have been the biggest keys to your breakout season?
“I would just say opportunity and consistency. I was just able to capitalize on my opportunity when DeVante (Parker) went down (with a foot injury). That’s really the reason I was able to make it hard for the coaches to put me back on the bench.
“When given the opportunity, I’ve taken advantage of it and just continued to be consistent from there. I think the coaches have just gained a lot of trust in me, and I’m going to try to continue to do that.”
Have you set out to accomplish any personal goals this season and beyond?
“I want to start every game, but (if not), play as much as I can and never miss a practice. I’ll just try to keep that (mindset) going in my career.”
How often do you hear fans say you’re on their fantasy teams?
“I’ve been hearing it a lot recently. The other day, I was actually walking in the mall and somebody said the same thing – ‘Oh, I’m starting you!’ It’s new, but I just say, ‘Don’t get mad if I don’t ever get you points.’”
Who were players you admired growing up and modeled your own game after?
“I wouldn’t say (he’s a player I) built my game around, but I really like Anquan Boldin. I think he’s kind of the same receiver as I am – I try to be like him, at least. He does a great job of breaking tackles and whatnot.”
What have been the biggest differences for you and the team since Dan Campbell took over as head coach?
“(He’s) just changing the culture up a little bit – just bringing the fun back to football. Not saying that it wasn’t fun before, but he’s just changing it up. We all understood what happened and with change, you have to make sure you get the attention of the team. He’s done a great job of that during practices and in the locker room.”
I’ve read he’s a big Metallica fan. Does he play any heavy metal music in the locker room?
(Laughs) “Is he? I could see it, now that you said that. That’s crazy though. I didn’t know that.”
What kind of music do you listen to before games?
“I like hip-hop. My favorite artist is Drake.”
What are some of your favorite off-the-field hobbies?
“I just had a son, so I hang out with my son and my dogs. I’m kind of a homebody, so I don’t do too much.”
Congratulations! How old is your son?
“Thank you. He’s seven weeks, so it’s a lot (of responsibility).”
It must be even tougher now to go on the road, but how much does it mean to you to have fan support across the country?
“It means a lot. I’ve seen it a lot. It shows us – and especially the new players who come (to the Dolphins) – that wherever we go, we have love everywhere. You have to be ready, embrace their presence and feed off of it.”