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PLAYER JOURNALS

Matthews, Borland go inside the Senior Bowl

Fri, Jan 24, 2014

 

 JORDAN MATTHEWS

 POSITION: WR

 SCHOOL: VANDERBILT

 TEAM: SOUTH 

SATURDAY/SUNDAY

It's a great feeling actually being here in my first all-star game. I’m really excited. I’m seeing a lot of guys here that are really talented that I’ve watched play over the years and also been able to compete against so it’s a really good atmosphere. I’m just looking forward to the week.

The (NFL) testing the first couple of days is just extremely long. I think the hardest part is staying in and keeping focused on getting it actually done. It’s not too difficult. It’s just making sure you finish it and are efficient with it.

You dream about stuff like this and now you’re actually here. You’re getting the gear and getting first class treatment from the people at the Senior Bowl who have done an outstanding job. But, at the same time, we’re getting treated good but you also want to keep that focus because you know you have to go out there and put the work in at practice.

Sunday night we went to the welcome reception. That was great seeing the fan support. The fans really came out. They were really excited and you could tell a lot of them were really college football heads. They knew a lot of us and they made a really good atmosphere for us and we just have to go out there Saturday and put on a show for them.

Our first practice is tomorrow. I’m just ready to go. It’s still practice. Practice is how you win the game. I’m just going in there with that focus and just making sure all the plays are in order and working hard. I’m just going to compete and show my love for the game; just play like I’ve been playing as a kid my whole life. That’s the biggest thing is to go out there and compete.

MONDAY

Kenny (Ladler) and I got up this morning at 6:30 a.m. and started it off. We were the first ones at breakfast. The Vanderbilt way is to be in your seat ten minutes early so that’s what we do. We want to keep that tradition going.

We just got up and got moving. We did the weigh-ins today. That was a pretty weird experience to say the least being in front of thousands of people in your underwear but at the same time it’s just a part of it so you understand it.

I weighed in good, my height was good; so I was glad to be able to get that over with. I have to do it one more time at the Combine but then that will be it.

We had position meetings for the first time where we actually went over what we were going to do in practice so that was pretty cool. That was a pretty good experience to actually see Coach (Jerry) Sullivan in his element.

Practice was good today. I felt like I got better as practice went on. I started a little slow but I Just had get back used to playing. After a while I got comfortable and I felt like practice got better and I’m hoping to take that same momentum over to the next practice.

I’m always going to be my hardest critic so there’s definitely a lot of areas I could’ve improved on. Tomorrow I just want to make sure I run my routes crisper and make sure I catch the ball better and then just continue to finish hard. Those are the main things I want to focus on.

The banquet was also really good, too. We got to go over for media day at the Battleship Park facility. That was good experience. I got to meet some media and spend some time with them and also got some good food.

It’s a good feeling that all the media wants to talk to you, but at the same time, I don’t think about it too much. I just do the interview and keep it going. At the same time I want to continue to stay humble and continue to work

I also got to meet with some teams tonight and I hope I left a good impression and just have to have a better day tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll go over the install to make sure I know a little bit. I’ll wake up early and go watch some film with some of the quarterbacks in the morning and then study some of my stuff before the 9:30 a.m. meeting.

TUESDAY

Big day. I woke up and got with Derek Carr and Cody Hoffman early and watched some film on practice the day before. We did some things we wanted to focus on and some things we wanted to fix.

We had a middle-of-the-day practice so we got the meetings in with Coach (Jerry) Sullivan and the rest of the Jaguars staff. It went really well and practice was good today.

I’m definitely just trying to improve each day and I improved a little bit from yesterday. There’s still some areas I’m trying to work on and trying to get better at so I’m going to watch the film again tomorrow morning and try to correct them by Wednesday’s practice.

I did feel like I made some plays today but I’m always trying to make the next one. You can’t ever get complacent so it’s kind of a good feeling to make a play but at the same time it’s very short-lived because you don’t want to end on that note. I have to keep making plays and I have to keep producing so when I make a play, I think about it for maybe a second and then I move on.

To close out the day, we had formal interviews today with the coaches and teams in the convention center and that went extremely well. The groups were quarterbacks, wide receivers and cornerbacks. It was just a big day. I’m glad to have another one in the books and excited for the next one.

WEDNESDAY

Today was the same kind of format as the other days. Kenny (Ladler) and I woke up and walked over to the convention center and got some film in from the practice before. We looked at some stuff to work and some stuff to improve. That’s just a great way to start the day.

Then we made sure we got some breakfast and went to team meetings.

All the installs are in so we were able to go to meetings and they were a little bit looser. We started talking about some possible trick plays but I won’t say what they are so the north team won’t know what we have up our sleeve.

We had another good high-tempo practice. All of our practices have been high-tempo. The Jaguars coaching staff has been phenomenal. They have us flying around and I’ve been learning a lot from Coach (Jerry) Sullivan these last couple days. I have all the respect in the world for him and of course Coach (Gus) Bradley and how he runs his staff too. It’s been a good experience and I’m just continuing to compete and get better with this talent out here.

After practice, I had the privilege to go over to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Rally with the group of high schoolers there. It was a phenomenal experience to see how many people were in attendance there to receive that message from the Lord and be able to have all those college athletes up there with me to share their messages and their testimonies with me was really good. I was just glad I had a chance to be able to go up there for a few minutes and share my journey and where God has brought me to.

I’m just relaxing now. Our day is pretty much over. I’m blessed to come through another day healthy. I’m getting better and just looking forward to tomorrow.

It feels good just being able to relax and getting a chance to be able to talk to my brother on the phone, which is good. It’s always good to be able to talk to my family, the people who genuinely care about me for me.

Tomorrow I just want to go out there and compete. Kenny and I are going to get up, watch some film to evaluate ourselves, continue to get better and get ready for Saturday.

THURSDAY

Today was another good day. I woke up and got ready and watched a little bit of film from the practice before trying to learn to some things from the day before and apply it to my game today.

The best part about today though was that we were able to go impact some children’s lives. We were able to go into an elementary school and be able to talk to the kids.

I talked to them about dreaming and accepting those dreams and living them out. I had all the kids raise their hand and tell me if they have a dream or if they know what they want to be when they grow up and they all knew exactly what they wanted to do.

Then I asked them if anyone has ever told them that they couldn’t do it and they all raised their hands and said yes. So, I told them usually the people that tell you you can’t do something are the ones that can’t do it either. I’m trying to inspire them to always carry out their dreams. That was really good to spend some time with the kids.

Then I went to practice. Practice was still high-tempo but less equipment. We were able to go just helmets but still really high-tempo and a lot of competition. Today was a pretty good day of practice as I still just try to work on things that Coach (Jerry) Sullivan is teaching me and trying to apply them to my game each day. I feel like each day and each day I’m getting closer to becoming that type of player I want to be and it’s just all about listening to those coaches and carrying out what they’re telling us.

Then I went to the banquet tonight. It was a really good atmosphere. I got to hear a great message from a keynote speaker.

We finished the night with a team swap which was really cool. We got to spend some time with the coaches of the Falcons coaching staff and speak with their wide receivers coach. He put us on the board and tested our football knowledge. I know that’s big in the interview process and it gave us a head start on working on being able to talk football with the NFL personnel, coaches and guys that have really been around the game a long time and hearing their verbiage and how it connects to ours.

It was a really good day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It keeps getting closer to game day so I’m just really excited.

It’s always a good experience to meet with the fans, which we’re doing tomorrow for a meet the players session. I have to make sure I rest my wrist tonight because it’s going to be a long day signing autographs. At the end of the day, it’s a blessing to be in this type of position so you just have to smile and always be appreciative and remember that this is what you worked for and this is what comes along with it.

FRIDAY

Today was basically a short day. I woke up and watched a little bit of film before we had our walk-through and the last of our team meetings.

The team meetings were really relaxed and laid back. We started to get into the part of formulating a team rather than competing against each other in practice.

It was a really flawless walk-through. You could tell everybody was ready, locked in and focused on making sure we win on Saturday.

It was a good day for everybody to have their families in. You saw a lot of people rolling in today before the game, so a lot of people have been with their families and that was good to see.

It’s been a long week, but to be able to cap it off with being around the people that you love the most really makes it all worthwhile.

What stood out the most this week has to be going to the elementary school. The football stuff is great, but being able to give back is always going to be the highlight for the week. The football stuff is going to come to an end at some point, but impacting peoples’ lives is the kind of stuff that really makes you live forever. Giving back is what the Senior Bowl embodies and I was really glad I could be a part of it.

Also, we had a big autograph signing at the convention center. That was extremely nice. A lot of fans came out and we stayed with them for about an hour and thirty minutes to two hours. We signed some autographs and spent some time with them. It felt really good to give back to those that are actually supporting us the whole time.

Other than that, I’ve been able to spend time with my family and it’s been a great day. 

GAME DAY/SATURDAY

It was a little bit of a shorter day. The way the NFL works I guess is there’s a little less close to the game preparation so basically the players have a lot more freedom before the game which I think is extremely cool. It definitely shows us how much of a professional we have to be. We had a short meeting in the morning to go over some final things but it wasn’t too serious. Then we had our pregame meal -- that was good -- and we went to the stadium and it was a great atmosphere.

There were a lot of people there. Everybody was really excited. The game went really well. I didn’t get a target in the first half, but I understand it’s an all-star game and you’re playing with a lot of great talent so you’re just trying to do whatever you can to go out there and make an impact.

I ended up doing some kick coverage, kickoff return on the front line and doing things like that -- that was good to get my feet wet. Some of those things I might have to do for an NFL team next year. In the second half I was able to get some passes so it was a good day. The most important thing is that I’m healthy and I’m blessed that I had an opportunity to play.

Thank you to the Senior Bowl. This was my first all-star game and it couldn’t have went any better. To Phil Savage and all the people that helped this whole week, thanks a lot. I’ve never been treated this first-class. Prior to me getting started into this process, getting into school was so hard. I didn’t have many colleges that wanted me so these people made this transition to the NFL a lot easier. Now, it’s time to keep that chip on my shoulder and keep working.  

 

CHRIS BORLAND

POSITION: ILB

SCHOOL: Wisconsin

TEAM: NORTH

 

SATURDAY/SUNDAY

 We landed in Biloxi (on Saturday). Me and five other guys were on the same flight and we had an hour ride or so and got to talk and get to know guys a little bit from all over the country. During the layover I knew we had guys that were flying straight here, but it was just a good chance to get to know everybody and meet some good people. We’re all very excited for this week.

 Joel (Bitonio), he’s a guard from Nevada; he was there when Andy Buh, my linebackers coach was the defensive coordinator, so we shared that. Wes (Johnson) is an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt and I spent some time with him. They’re two good dudes and I Just got know them a little bit. We got to share the experiences of getting the agent, where they’re training and our playbooks this week.

(Borland has four teammates with him at the Reese's Senior Bowl: Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen, Dez Southward and James White).

It’s great to have familiar faces to bounce ideas off of and share our experience. It’s really helpful. It’s exciting, it’s new and fresh and you’re kind of getting thrown into the fire a little bit but to have guys you’re familiar with go through with that with you I think it helps.

I've talked to a lot of scouts. A lot of these scouts we’ve seen come through Madison at practice and pro days but to have intimate interviews with them it makes you realize how real everything is. It’s no longer a dream, it’s right front in of you. I think it’s exciting for us and I’m definitely pumped about it.

This is a first-class event. They treat us very well and it’s great. The gear is great, Under Armour has been awesome. Mobile has been a great host. 

(Monday the teams hit the practice field for the first time).

I want to show well in one-on-one’s, that will be important. Also, I want to show that I’m strong mentally and can understand concepts. We just came out of defensive meetings so hopefully I apply that this week.

MONDAY

I got up at a quarter to seven, showered and got ready and went downstairs and ate breakfast. From there, we had weigh-ins today so those started at 8:30 a.m. for the north team over at the convention center. It didn’t take too long. I was there for maybe 15-20 minutes, maybe a half hour.

Afterwards, I went straight in to defensive meetings and I had some time to kill so I did some film work on my own and then I was joined by Christian Kirksey and Jonathan Brown and eventually Coach (Glen) Pires from the Falcons, the linebackers coach. That went well. I was able to get a jump on some people and watch some film there.

After that, I had a special teams meeting and then a defensive meeting and then a linebackers meeting. After all the meetings I had about a 40-minute break and went up to my room, laid down for a minute and then got my gear ready and went and loaded it for practice.

We drove to practice. That’s kind of an ordeal in itself, you have to get ready, get taped, and get out and get stretched. I thought practice went pretty well. It wasn’t too long and it was pretty intense. I’m looking forward to it picking up a little more.

I felt good about practice, but not great. I made a few mistakes that I’d like to have back. It was a good start and something I can build on.

After practice, I had a few media obligations and talked to some teams right there while still in my pads and we came back. I showered up and had a nice little media luncheon over at the U.S.S. Alabama and that was about an hour and a half.

Compared to the NFL stuff, media interviews are nothing. That was enjoyable. We ate a good meal and hung out with the teammates and occasionally had to be pulled to do interviews. They weren’t as analytically probing as these NFL interviews. They were more about why you love the game and what inspired you so that was a walk in the park.

From there I came back to the hotel and met with teams all night. It’s been jam-packed but a lot of good information and I’ve been enjoying it.

The days are busy from about 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day but that 40-minute or so break is nice.

Part of the challenge is to see how you perform under stress. I’ve probably been sleeping six hours a night, maybe 7 on a good night these last few days. I’ve still been performing well and interviewing well so I think that bodes well for me.

The later parts of the day are busier. We have an obligation each day at 6:30 p.m. and when you get back from that, it’s kind of a free-for-all and there’s hundreds if not thousands of personnel and representatives here from the NFL. They’ll just grab you at a moment’s notice. That’s been the most hectic part but it’s also probably the most important part so I’m attacking it and I’m enjoying it.

I’m going to get some rest tonight. We practice in the morning so I have to get a good meal in and stay focused at each task at hand. We’ve got a lot going on but you have to do well in each realm.

To all the fans, thanks for everything and I hope to make you proud.

TUESDAY

Today’s Tuesday, our second practice day. Practice started at 9:30 a.m. so we had breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. so I woke up at a quarter to seven and got a good meal in and then headed off to practice.

Immediately following practice, we came back to the hotel, showered and got cleaned up and had lunch. From lunch, we went straight to meetings and met for almost two hours as a team, as a special teams, as a defense and then as linebackers. I thought it was productive. It was our first chance as a group to really go over the film in-depth. I really enjoyed that. Coach Pires is a great coach and the guys around me are smart players. It’s fun to be around new people who are energized and enthused about the game.

Then, after the meetings, we had the introduction to financial things in the NFL. Patrick Kerney, a former player in the NFL, and another guy in the business gave us a presentation. I thought it was really helpful.

They stressed avoiding pitfalls, personal responsibility, some things guys commonly do and things to look out for when investment opportunities come your way. And he also stressed the time value of money to make your money last and grow over a long period of time. I thought it was a good message to hear.

After that, was our little 45-minute break to go lay down and maybe watch a little bit of TV.

Immediately following that, I went to dinner. At dinner, I was sitting with Trent Murphy and Stan Jean-Baptiste. They’re a couple of good guys. Trent was signed up as a speaker for a church function and they needed a body so I joined that. We went over to a little congregation of young kids and people and kind of gave the message of how to work hard, how to accomplish things, what to avoid and shared our own experiences.

After that, I came back to the hotel and had a handful of meetings with NFL personnel and that’s how my night ended, meeting with NFL teams for about two hours.

I’ve become friends with Jordan Zumwalt from UCLA. He’s a fellow inside linebacker. We’ve been so busy and we’ve spent so much time together that before my recap of the night, I had to confide in him. “What exactly did we do all day?” because it’s been so hectic the last 16 hours. We went through it together and it’s a good example of teamwork.

WEDNESDAY

Breakfast was at 7 a.m. so I got up a quarter to seven like we have most of the week and we got breakfast in and I got my ankles taped. We went to practice and had a good practice. It was intense, our third day in pads, and we accomplished a lot.

It being our last day of full pads in practice and Saturday being your last day in full pads until you’re on an NFL roster, hopefully, it’s bringing everything into perspective. It’s very real and it’s upon you and it’s exciting. I thought we had a good day and competed hard. We got to end the day on special teams stuff with kickoff coverage and kickoff return, which is always fun and intense. Our guys did a good job with it.

From practice, the linebackers, running backs and fullbacks got to do an autograph signing so we spent about an extra 45 minutes at the stadium afterwards meeting some kids from the community and some other people that wanted things signed.

It was great. You couldn’t see the end of the line from where I was sitting. There were so many schools that were in attendance at the Senior Bowl and there were a lot of kids. Unfortunately, they had to cut the line off which was really too bad. I know there are probably kids that went away without an autograph which is frustrating especially since a lot of people in the line were intending on selling the items.

But, the guys were great. All the players were giving away gloves and stuff. I had nothing left to give away so I took the band on the chin-pad that’s become popular and took it off the chin-guard and gave it to a kid. It was a smelly, sweaty thing but he seemed thrilled to have it so it was great. There are some really nice young kids and they were really excited to meet some future NFL players.

From there, we came back to the hotel, showered up and because of the autographs we had a shorter window to eat lunch and get to the meetings.

We met again as a team, special teams, defense and then linebackers. It all went well. It’s been great working with the Falcons and I think we got a lot of good film from the week to study.

After all of our football meetings, we had another financial meeting. This time with Merrill Lynch and some guys that work with them. It was more financial advice like pitfalls to avoid and strategies to employ. Again that was productive and useful for all of our guys.

After that, we didn’t have anything scheduled so I went and caught up on all of the special teams film from the week and rehashed on some defensive film as well for about 30 or 40 minutes. Then I had a few informal meetings in the hotel.

Today I ate dinner on the go because after I had gotten done with meetings, it was about 6:15 p.m. and the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) rally started at the convention center at 6:30. They didn’t have any to-go plates so I had to grab an extra box that they used to store the Reese’s cups in and throw in a salad, some mashed potatoes, corn, greens and some chicken and eat that on the go. I was finishing it as we were getting called onto the stage for our portion of the rally.

I heard some good guys speak tonight. I knew Jared (Abbrederis) was active in the FCA and he spoke about him and his wife, Rachel, and some things he had gone through as a walk-on. Jordan Matthews, Tajh Boyd and the Florida State guys (Terrence Brooks and Telvin Smith) all spoke and it was received well. It was an Alabama and Auburn crowd here in Mobile so a couple of the specialists from those schools (Alabama punter Cody Mandell and Auburn place-kicker Cody Parkey) got a lot of love.

It was a great event. I spent the time sitting next to (Ryan) Hewitt from Stanford, who I’ve gotten to know a little bit and he’s a great guy.

After the FCA Rally, I came back to the hotel and took a quick shower and put something a little nicer than the sweats you wear around the hotel on to get prepared for the formal interview portion of the week. The linebackers, tight ends, backs and specialists all met with NFL teams over at the convention center in a more formal setting.

It was very good. It was two-plus hours of interviews that were similar to the informal ones you get in the hotel but more structured and I think it made sure that anyone that wanted to talk to the players got an opportunity. I think all of that went well.

I came back and grabbed what food they had left in the players lounge and headed to my room to get some rest.

THURSDAY

Again, breakfast started at 7 a.m. so we woke up at a quarter to seven. We got down and got a meal in and headed off to a community service event for a couple of hours.

Some linebackers from both the north and south went to a place where they have activities for mentally handicapped adults. We played some kickball, a little bit of basketball, signed autographs and took pictures for a couple hours and it was a really good time. I think the north ended up actually taking the kickball game, by the way.

From there, we came back to the hotel and went to lunch. We got a meal in and a little bit of a break. And then our buses departed for the stadium at 1:30 p.m.

It was a lighter practice. We were at a high school, Fairhope Stadium. We went through a lot of special teams situations, our two-minute drill and some logistical things that we’ll have to do in order to play a game. We ran around a little bit and practice was two hours.

After practice, we hustled right back to make it in time for I believe the second annual banquet that they have at the Senior Bowl. I know guys were hustling. We had to grab a shower after practice and make it back down to the lobby in less than ten minutes.

It was a really nice event. We got a good meal in and heard a great speech by Aeneas Williams. He spoke really well and I was impressed by him. I really enjoyed his message.

Also at the banquet, they awarded individual awards and I was honored to take home linebacker of the week during practices this week. That meant a lot. I came down here to prove that I could play and was able to get that award so I think I’ve accomplished that.

The banquet got out at 8:30 p.m. and we had what we called a “team swap.” We had met with all of the teams this week but obviously the Falcons were working closely with us. The flip side of that is that the Jaguars got to see very little of the north squad so the team swap tonight was designed to get to watch a little bit of film and get to know the Jaguars better. I had a great interview with them and I talked to some of their scouts this week but this was my first chance to sit down and have an in-depth conversation with their linebackers coach and a few scouts.

From there, at about 10:30 p.m., I started a psychological exam for some team and that’s how I ended my night. Kind of uneventful, but I’m taking care of business, having fun and finishing the week strong.

I’m really looking forward to some rest for my body tomorrow and a great game Saturday.

We have a meet and greet with the fans tomorrow and I’m a little in the dark of what’s going on. Those things seem to be fun though. I think the fans come out in full force for an event like this. It’s an all-star game so we have a lot of personalities and guys from all over the country so I’m sure there will be fans from all over. They’re really passionate about their football down here so I’m sure it will be a lively event at the convention center.

FRIDAY

Today was by far the most relaxed day of the week. We got up for breakfast again early at 7 a.m. from there, we went on to meetings. We met as a team, special teams, defense and linebackers again. These meetings were less about X’s and O’s and more about team procedure.

The team meeting was longer than usual. We went over things from where we’re coming in to warm up to where you line up during the national anthem and things like that where you just have to know so you don’t look silly on game day.

Afterwards, we had a walk-through. We went over some things about the game, but it was more sorting out substitutions, what if someone were to get hurt and special situations.

From there, we had a little bit of a break. Right before lunch I took another psychological test for a team. This one was more specific for your position, so I think that was my last one and it went well.

We finally got a bit of an extended break and I took advantage of that and got a nap.

After that, there was a “Meet The Players” event for the fans in the convention center. We put on our game uniforms and signed autographs for a little under two hours. There were a lot of fans and a lot of kids in attendance. I saw a lot of Badgers fans, which was cool to see down here.

From there, we went to dinner and have been able to relax since. It’s been nice that things have calmed down and you get a chance to just hang out with the guys and unwind after a pretty hectic week. All in all it’s been good and I’m very excited for the game.

There’s been a ton of exciting things this week, though. I think to be working with guys who are at the height of the profession, to be coached by the Atlanta Falcons staff, to meet general managers, head coaches and coaches all week has been great. That’s been a wonderful experience, but I really enjoyed meeting other guys from around the country. The guys I’ve played against, read about and seen on TV. To be their teammates for a week has been a joy. We all go through the same things. I think there’s been very few people that understand what life’s really like as a college athlete and a potential NFL player. These guys all get it and it’s nice to be around them this week. 

GAME DAY/ SATURDAY

Today being game day, it was probably the most relaxed day. We had breakfast and then a meeting for an hour. Then, we had a little pregame meal.

From there, we went over to the stadium and had extended warm-ups because it was a game. The introductions were a whole production. We were called out by school and I walked out with a kid from the boy’s and girl’s club. There was a band performance and the national anthem, everything was really nice. They really rolled out the red carpet for this.

The game itself didn’t really go our way. We had some guys out and the south played well. We ended up losing 20-10, but I thought we played all right.

From there, it was back to the hotel and the week is over. I think al in all it was a productive week. It was a joy to get to know a lot of great people, a lot of great players and the staffs of the respective teams and all the personnel that was down here. I really enjoyed myself and I tried my hardest.

I couldn’t have had a better experience. Thank you to Phil Savage for having me down and to the city of Mobile and the Senior Bowl for catering this event so much to the players. We’re lucky to have been taken part in such a wonderful event.