PHOENIX — Wearing sunglasses to protect his eyes from the bright lights of television cameras, Seahawks reserve wide receiver Chris Matthews is enjoying the spotlight as a humble, if unlikely, hero.
Without Matthews’ recovery of an on-side kick in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks are probably at home right now. But as he embraced the attention and participated in the goofiness at Super Bowl media day, he made a sincere admission: He feels sorry for Brandon Bostick, the Packers tight end who botched a point-blank opportunity to catch the onside kick and all but end the game.
“Yeah, man. Brandon Bostick, he had an opportunity to make a play and potentially end the game. So I’m sorry it happened,” Matthews said. “But things happen — God puts us here and does certain things for us. So when our opportunity comes up we have to make the most of it.”
That’s how humble of a hero Chis Matthews is — he was at the right place at the right time and won’t even take credit for that. “God blessed me — thats all it was,” he said. “He put me in that right situation, where it was open for me, as you could see how open it was when I jumped to catch the ball. That was simply God. That had nothing to do with he.”
But what if Bostick is a man of faith himself? Why would God choose to screw him at such a fateful moment?
“Maybe it wasn’t his time,” Matthews said. “That’s not for me to say. That’s up for him and the man upstairs, for them to talk about. I wish nothing but the best for [Bostick]. Next year I hope he catches 80 balls and 10 touchdowns. I hope he does really good next year.”
Whether it was divine intervention or a lucky bounce of an oddly shaped ball, the Seahawks needed a pair of unlikely heroes to advance to Super Bowl XLIX and keep their hopes alive of becoming the first back-to-back Super Bowl winner since the Patriots in 2003-04. It’s unlikely the Seahawks win without Matthews’ retrieval of the onside kick. And if backup tight end Luke Willson doesn’t make an improbable catch of a desperation heave by Russell Wilson for a two-point conversion with 1:25 to play in regulation, Mason Crosby’s 48-yard field goal would have won it for the Packers instead of merely sending the game into overtime.
“It’s been fun — just to have a big play in a game where every play mattered, that was really neat,” said Willson, a 25-year-old from LaSalle, Ontario who was drafted in the fifth round out by the Seahawks out of Rice in 2013.
Willson was even more unfazed by the attention from his significant contribution than Matthews.
“You always want to contribute, but at that point it really didn’t matter who,” Willson said. We just really wanted to win and get back here.”
But the phone calls, the texts, the replays on ESPN. How cool is that?
“It was pretty cool to see the support from everybody,” Willson said. “But at the same time, we’ve got a job to do and our fans want to see us win and we’re going to try to do that on Sunday.”
Matthews said he’s the same person today he was before he made his big play. The 6-5, 218-pound Los Angeles native was cut by the Browns in the preseason in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky. He played two seasons in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — his breakout game (eight catches, 131 yards, one touchdown) came in Week 2 of his rookie season against Marc Trestman’s Montreal Alouettes.
He was the CFL rookie of the year in 2012 when he caught 81 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. A toe injury limited him in 2013 and he signed with the Seahawks in 2014. He was cut three times by Seattle before he was promoted from their practice squad on Dec. 6. So the NFC Championship Game was his fifth career NFL appearance.
Until then, he was known more as the namesake of talk-show host Chris Matthews. In fact, his nickname, courtesy of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, is “Hardball.” But now he’s a Seahawks hero, whose recovery of the onside kick will live forever on highlight shows.
“To be honest with you, nothing really changed, besides getting more phone calls and text messages,” Matthews said. “I don’t want to change. I don’t plan on changing or anything like that. I’m really a down-to-earth person. I’m really a homebody. Once the season is over with, you’ll catch me right at home, hanging out with my family and staying to myself.”
He just happens to be a sunglasses-indoors kind of guy.
“Exactly,” he said. “This is just because I think I’m big-time now. Im really a homebody. I’m a down-to-earth person. Me wearing these [sunglasses] — this is me. It has nothing to do with any of this [attention].”