If the Green Bay Packers are going to draft a quarterback to compete for a backup spot to starter Aaron Rodgers, doesn't it make sense that select someone already familiar with one of their centers?
Obviously the Packers will take the player they feel is the best man for the job, but perhaps Cornell quarterback Jeff Matthews has a leg up on some of his competition due to a pre-existing connection to former college teammate J.C. Tretter, who many feel will be the team's starter at center in 2014.
Back during the college days together, Tretter was Cornell's left tackle, protecting Matthews' blindside.
"We would talk all the time about protection, adjustments, stuff like that," said Matthews. "He was always a guy I would kind of lean on, saying, 'Hey, J.C., what are we getting over there?' And he'd be able to tell you right away and have an opinion about what we should do."
Tretter failed to gain any experience during his rookie season, although he had a legitimate excuse that came with breaking his ankle during the team's offseason program, shortly after being drafted. Placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Tretter was finally activated and able to practice with three games remaining in the regular season but didn't see any game action.
Listed as a center/guard on the Packers official website, Tretter appears destined for the interior of the offensive line, even though he played on the edge in college.
"He's such a smart football mind, which kind of gets overlooked as offensive linemen," said Matthews. "He played tight end, and we had a very kind of intricate system and did really well. He really understands football as a whole, played quarterback in high school. I think putting him at center is really a great spot for him, because him making calls at the line, being able to see defenses, I think that's a unique skill that he has and maybe other linemen don't have."
With Tretter blocking for Matthews, the quarterback was able to put up back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons as a sophomore and junior.
Despite being more experienced after Tretter's departure, Matthews' best season arguably came when the two played together in 2011, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,412 yards (9.3 yard per attempt) with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
After his senior season, Matthews was invited to the East-West Shrine Game, where he met with the Packers.
"You kind of get a feel," said Matthews of talking to teams in an all-star game environment. "A lot of that is background information, a lot of it is 'What have you done? What's your family situation?' A lot of that type of stuff.
"And then some teams really get into the football side of it a little bit with their scouts. With some teams, you watch a little bit of your own film and they break it down to you how they see it and you kind of explain how you saw it and what you see during the play."
Matthews has prototypical size, measuring in at 6' 4" and 223 lbs. and also displays a strong arm but has to overcome the small-school pedigree. He may come from the lower levels of college football but an Ivy League education certainly doesn't hurt his ability to understand the intracies of the game of football.
Projected to be a mid to late round draft choice, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper feels Matthews could be selected as high as the fifth or sixth round.
"I think I will (be drafted)," said Matthews. "Obviously there's concerns. I believe in myself. I believe in my abilities, and I understand the concerns that are out there. I played in the Ivy League. Not many quarterbacks or skill players at all come out of there. And we weren't as successful as I would have liked to have been.
"I understand the concerns, but that's why I'm here. I'm here to show that it doesn't matter where I am or who I'm competing against, if it's the Combine or the East-West Shrine Game and eventually, hopefully in the NFL."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
Photo: Cornell quarterback Jeff Matthews by Brian Carriveau.
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