IMG 0871NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Different things motivate different people.

My Midday 180 guys and I spent Friday in Canton, Ohio around a lot of men wearing the gold jackets that delineate them as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The best players in the history of their sport surely knew they were good along the way to getting a bronze bust to memorialize their career.

That’s what was so striking about a line we heard on Friday.

Bruce Matthews, the only guy to wear a Tennessee Titans uniform who’s earned membership in the Hall, said this:

“I’ll be honest, when I played, I didn’t really want to find out (how I measured up against a great defensive lineman). There was such a fear factor. I was afraid I was always going to get exposed for the fraud that I was.”

Matthews is arguably the greatest offensive lineman to ever play in the NFL. And he thought of himself as a fraud?

I was fascinated with this, and later in the interview I circled back to it and asked if he really felt like that, if he could delve further into that part of his football psyche.

“Well all I know is, I remember sitting at my last training camp, I had just turned 40, (general manager) Floyd Reese and myself had the same birthday, always in the middle of training camp," Matthews said. "And I was going out to practice and it was my 19th year and I’m going ‘Oh my gosh.’ I would be so nervous and it was like, ‘Oh crap, they are going to find out today, you know, that I blow.’

“Logically I knew I could play, and really I had that moment of comfort of, ‘All right, I’ve still got it’ and the anxiety would pass. But I would have those thoughts every game I ever played. I remember driving on the team bus to away games and I remember seeing fans tailgating and smelling the BBQ and going, ‘Oh man, I wish I was out there with them, and then everything would be all right. But I have to go out there with pads.’

“But that’s just who I was and then I would settle down and it was all great from there.”

I know Matthews’ approach was contagious in the Titans' locker room. Frank Wycheck talks about how when he made a good play he’d return to the huddle not feeling particularly good about what he just did so much as grateful for a snap where he knew he didn’t screw anything up.

It’s remarkable that Matthews had those feelings long after he was established as a dominant player. And it’s clearly part of what helped make him great.

Houston Oilers Hall of Fame defensive lineman Elvin Bethea visited with our show on Monday.

His career overlapped with Matthews.

"He was far from a fraud," Bethea said. "Where he is today, he should be there."

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments powered by CComment

Paul Midday logo 2b 2