Chris Matthews went from practice squad receiver to Super Bowl hero

Chris Matthews’ first four NFL receptions just happened to come in Sunday’s Super Bowl. But he would have traded all of them, including his touchdown reception, for a Seahawks’ victory in that game. 

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If the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl, Chris Matthews had a stat line that would have made him a candidate for MVP: Four catches for 109 yards, including an 11-yard reception for the team's second touchdown catch and a 44-yarder to setup the first.

But the Seahawks didn't win, as rookie free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson's pass that was intended for Ricardo Lockette at the goal line with 20 seconds left to ice the New England Patriots' 28-24 victory. So the biggest day of Matthews' football career ended up coming in the biggest disappointment of his career.

"I'm an extreme competitor. So right now, it's hard. It's hitting me real hard," Matthews said in the hallway outside the locker room on Tuesday, when the players were cleaning out their cubicles and heading their separate ways for the offseason.

"I would have been fine with zero receptions, zero touchdowns, zero tackles on special teams and came out with a win. That would have been great for me."

Many of his new teammates tasted Super Bowl victory last season, and have the rings to show for it.

"I don't," he said. "I'm pretty mad about that. I'm extremely mad about that. But I'm going to get over it."

There was a point to Matthews' performance against the Patriots, as he proved that he can indeed be a playmaker in this league.

It just took a long time and a meandering path to get the 6-foot-5 Matthews to this point.

He played tight end and defensive end at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. He then went to Los Angeles Harbor Junior College, before finishing his college career at Kentucky. He entered the NFL in late July 2011 as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns, but was released on Sept. 3 and did not play football that season. After playing two seasons in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he signed with the Seahawks last February. He was released in late August, signed to the practice squad the next day; released two days later; re-signed in late October; released in early November; re-signed in mid-November; and signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 6.

And when opportunity knocked, Matthews answered in kick-down-the-door fashion. He recovered an onside kick in the NFC Championship as the Seahawks scored two touchdowns in the final 90 seconds and eventually won in overtime. And his performance in the Super Bowl had storyline-hungry reporters scrambling to figure out who he was.

But Tuesday, Matthews' sights already were set on the offseason, and getting better for next season.

"I'm going to work hard this offseason and I'm going to come back a better player, hopefully," he said.

The last time he had this kind of success was during his first season with the Blue Bombers, when he was named Most Outstanding Rookie after catching 81 passes for 1,192 yards and seven TDs. But Matthews said he made a mistake during the offseason that followed.

"That offseason, all I was doing was working out and every night I was studying Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall – guys that I look up to," Mathews said. "I was like, 'I want to be like these guys.' "

Not a bad idea. Calvin Johnson is a three-time All-Pro receiver for the Detroit Lions. Andre Johnson is a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver for the Houston Texans. Marshall is a five-time Pro Bowl receiver who has played with the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. And, like Matthews, they are big targets – Calvin Johnson is 6-5, Marshall is 6-4 and Andre Johnson is 6-3.

As good as Matthews' intensions were he wasn't pleased with the results.

"I tried to change things about me to try to be like them – from appearance to physical attributes and even the style of play," he said. "I feel like that hurt me because I ended up getting hurt. In practice, I was dropping balls when I knew I should have caught them. It was just tough for me.

"I had people telling me, 'Just be yourself. Just be yourself.' But it was too late by then."

He's not about to make the same mistake.

"This offseason, I'm just going to worry about myself," he said. "I still look up to those guys. Those guys are amazing players. But I'm definitely going to come back as myself, but as a different player."

And at some point, Matthews will be able to look past the disappointment of how his first season with the Seahawks ended and focus on just how big his contributions were.

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