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Chris Matthews: one yard from football immortality

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews (13) celebrates his touchdown catch against the New England Patriots during the first half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Sunday, February 1, 2015, in Glendale, Arizona (Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel)

Chris Matthews caught zero passes during the regular season.  Prior to the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks receiver was known primarily for recovering an onside kick against the Packers that helped his team to an improbable playoff win and put them in the championship game.

During the lead-up to the game, everyone wondered how Patriots coach Bill Belichick would prepare.  He is famous for taking away a team’s best player through creative matchups and strategies.  It turned out, he set up coverages that made it virtually impossible for Russell Wilson to find his usual receivers.

Enter Matthews.  He made a 44-yard leaping catch in the first half, scored a touchdown to close out the half, and made a 45-yard catch early in the second half.  Before the Patriots’ comeback win, many were wondering if Matthews would be the MVP of the game.

His story is truly remarkable.  Matthews was cut by Cleveland in 2011.  He played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, then got a job working at Foot Locker and was also working as a security guard.  The Seahawks called him up for a workout last year, cut him in training camp, added him to their practice squad, waived and re-signed him twice, then called him up to the 53-man roster in December.  He played in three regular season games but did not catch a single pass.  Then he caught four passes for 109 yards in the biggest game of his life.

Chris Matthews is the latest example of the old adage: Quitters never win—winners never quit.

On October 29, 1941, Winston Churchill returned to Harrow, the school he attended as a boy.  World War II was in its darkest days for the British Empire.  Many wondered if the country could prevail against the forces of the Third Reich.  In his remarks, the prime minister offered this famous imperative: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparent overwhelming might of the enemy.”  He did not, and the people he led did not, and the world is forever better for their courage.

Abraham Lincoln had less than a year of formal education.  In 1832 he ran for the Illinois House of Representatives, but lost.  He ran again two years later and won.  After serving a single term in the House of Representatives, he ran for the Senate but lost.  He ran for his party’s vice presidential nomination but lost.  He ran again for the Senate but lost.  In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and is considered by many to be the greatest leader in our nation’s history.  The inscription at the Lincoln Memorial speaks to his legacy: “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

I have no idea if Chris Matthews will catch another pass in the NFL, or if he will remain merely the answer to a football trivia question.  But I admire his team spirit.  After his incredible game he was asked how he felt.  “I’m not a selfish player,” he said.  “I didn’t care if I didn’t get one pass, one yard, one tackle.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me as long as we won the game.  I would have been happy with a win and no stats.”

When we do what matters, our lives matter.  When we serve our eternal Lord, giving our best to the One who gave his best for us, we plant trees we’ll never sit under.  And then, long after the last Super Bowl is played, our legacy for our King will only have begun.