This is not the first time Bruce Matthews has been separated from his family for the sake of his career. But this time it’s his coaching, not his playing career. And it presents him with a rare opportunity as a father.
As offensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans, Matthews — one of the franchise’s all-time greats and a Pro Football Hall of Famer — will get to work directly with the second of his five children, Kevin, a backup center/guard who made his NFL debut late last season as an undrafted rookie.
“I don’t know the numbers on it, but I’d have to say that very few fathers and sons have been able to do this on the NFL level,” Bruce Matthews said. “So it’s something that we take very seriously.”
When it comes to family, Kevin is going to be Bruce’s primary source of company for the next year or so. The youngest of the five Matthews children, Michael, has one year left in high school, so he and Matthews’ wife, Carrie, will stay in Texas so he can finish.
It’s a similar arrangement to 1997, the year the Titans relocated from Houston. Then, the family stayed in the Houston area while Matthews lived in a Nashville apartment during the season.
“The family would come up for the ‘home games’ at Memphis,” he said. “That lasted the first season. Then they came up the last four. We would go half a year up and half a year back in Texas.”
That he gets the opportunity to coach Kevin — once the lockout ends and players are allowed to return to team facilities, that is — seems appropriate, given the fact that Matthews’ interest in coaching came from time spent as a coach for his kids.
“I actually started at the youth level — 8-, 9-, 10-year-old boys — and then moved up to the high school level and then up the old chain,” he said. “More than anything, just seeing how cool it was when guys saw and took ownership of stuff that you were trying to help them do, and they would kind of have the lightswitch go on for them. I could see the appeal in teaching and the whole nine yards in that regard.”
He was a volunteer coach at Elkins High School before he joined the Houston Texans as an offensive assistant, a job he held for the past two years. He had an agreement in place to become that team’s offensive line coach this fall, when Mike Munchak, his former teammate and position coach and one of his closest friends, was named Jeff Fisher’s replacement as Titans head coach.
Still, his experience coaching Kevin is limited, and the two will have to figure out the dynamics of their unique situation as they go.
“I’ve only coached Kevin in Little League baseball,” Matthews said. “I’ve worked with him before but never officially as a coach in football.
“I’m his dad, and I’m a big fan of his. I’ll be the first to admit he’s my favorite player, yet at the same time I probably expect more out of him than any other player in the building. He has that respect value as well.”
It’s the same type of respect that convinced him to leave behind another of his sons and his wife for an extended period.
“The opportunity to coach with [Munchak] and to coach Kevin is just something that my wife and I felt like we just couldn’t pass up,” he said. “We’re very excited for hopefully a lot of very good things happening up here.”