Last season, I did a series of question and answer videos with Ticat players and staff. They seemed to go OK so we’ve decided to try it again this season. The challenge is always asking good questions: they are generally the only kind that illicit good answers. Jeff Mathews has been a high-level American quarterback for some time: he knows exactly how to read from the athlete quote book. But get him talking about things that interest him – his sister, his truck, his love for chocolate – and it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the real person.
Rookie Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ quarterback Jeff Mathews lit it up during Monday’s pre-season game against the Ottawa Redblacks, throwing for 188 yards and two touchdowns in just 30 minutes of action. In the first of our season-long series of interviews with Ticat players and personnel, The Spectator’s Drew Edwards talks to Mathews about his breakout performance, his inspirational sister Katie, who was injured in a 2006 car accident and is now a quadriplegic, and his love of an old truck and all things chocolate.
Drew Edwards: You have a baby face. Have you tried to buy beer in the province of Ontario, yet?
Jeff Mathews: I haven’t yet. I’m fortunate that I have friends that look old enough, they have a beard and stuff. I’ve been told that quite a few times.
DE: You must get carded a lot. I mean, the drinking age is 21 in the States.
JM: I’ll get carded until I’m 30, probably. That’s life.
DE: How has your adjustment to the CFL game been? You looked very comfortable on Monday.
JM: We did a good job executing what we wanted to do. The thing is, every day is a growing process. Some days you don’t perform up to your expectations and then you have to learn from it.
DE: Were there things you could have done better?
JM: There’s always things you could have done better. You always try and think through the game as much as possible so if you get something different the next time, you’re prepared for that look.
DE: I wanted to ask you about your sister, Katie. She was in a car accident in 2006 and is now a quadriplegic.
JM: She is the most inspiring person I have ever met. She’s unbelievable. She and I are extremely close, she’s been texting me day in and day out asking me how things are going. She’s gone through so much, it really is incredible. When she’s been told that she isn’t going to be able to do certain things, she doesn’t care, she just goes and does them. She’s an inspiration to me.
DE: There are setbacks in football but does having someone like that in your life allow you to keep things in perspective?
JM: There are things in life that are bigger than football. But ultimately she’s an inspiration not because of what she’s gone through, but because of the person that she is. She’s so positive, so upbeat. It’s not that she’s overcome so many obstacles, it’s that she’s done it with a smile on her face.
DE: Your good friend and college roommate Luke Tasker told me you drive an old Jeep Cherokee and described it as a piece of crap. Is that fair?
JM: Hey now, those are fighting words. It’s a 2000 and it’s a great car, still in great shape. It’s got close to 200,000 miles on it, just runs like a charm. That baby is doing well and I really like it and hopefully it can hang on for a little while. It’s the first car I ever bought with my own money and I love it.
DE: When you start getting game cheques, can you …
JM: Oh no, no, I’m not buying a new car. I won’t buy a new car unless I have to. I’m saving all my money. I’m a cheap guy. I need a car, a fly fishing rod and a tent and I can be happy in the off-season.
DE: I know you’ve lived in California but you describe yourself as from Montana, and think of yourself as Montana guy, an outdoors guy.
JM: I was born there and my dad retired there so it’s good to go back. We go fishing a lot, biking, go snowshoeing in the winter. It’s an amazing place to feel small in the world and that’s kind of relaxing. It’s a special place and I enjoy being there.
DE: Luke says your biggest vice is chocolate and that you’re kinda weird about it.
JM: I’m picky. I like chocolate-dipped cones but only certain ones — I think McDonald’s has the best ones, which sound crazy, I know. I love Dove chocolate. Sometimes you go dark, sometimes you go milk chocolate. That’s my thing.
DE: Welcome to Canada, enjoy the chocolate.
JM: I will have to go to the store and figure everything out here. But thanks very much.