DAVIE, Fla. — Anyone who has followed the University of Nevada, Reno football program over the years, knows of Rishard Matthews.
The former UNR star wide receiver moved on to the NFL and looks to improve, following his breakout 2013 season for the Miami Dolphins.
Matthews was drafted 227th in round seven of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Matthews received a lot of playing time in the 2013 season due to injuries that decimated the Dolphins’ offense. Injuries to wide receivers Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline and tight end Dustin Keller, gave Matthews his chance at the slot receiver position. He took advantage.
Matthews caught 41 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns. He saw his first major role in the offense during a Monday Night Football game versus Tampa Bay, and he had a career night. Matthews caught 11 balls for 120 yards and both of his touchdowns on the season, in a losing effort. Matthews had a 24-yard reception late in the fourth quarter of a game against conference rival New England that set up the game winning touchdown. The Dolphins upset the Patriots 24-20.
In the final eight games of the season, Matthews caught 31 balls for 331 yards.
He was born in San Diego, California, but moved to Clovis, New Mexico, with his sister, who worked at Cannon Air Force Base, when he has 14.
In 2005, during Matthews’ junior year at Clovis High School, he dominated the competition. He was a well-rounded offensive weapon and caught 43 passes for 839 yards and 12 touchdowns. He carried the ball 29 times for 358 yards and five scores. Matthews was also a return specialist, averaging 33 yards per punt return and scoring twice, while adding another score from a 91-yard kickoff return.
Matthews said, “I loved the Clovis area. The fans were passionate and the community really backed the sports programs.”
Matthews moved back to California during his senior year of high school and became an all-state selection at Saddleback High School. He verbally committed to the University of Oregon but attended Bakersfield College in California before transferring to UNR in 2010.
At UNR, Matthews showcased his talents in the Western Athletic Conference. He caught 147 passes for 2,243 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons for the Wolf Pack. He was a second-team All-WAC performer in 2010. In 2011, Matthews was a preseason candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top college receiver.
Who can forget the 2010 Boise State game? The No. 19 Wolf Pack roared back from a 24-7 halftime deficit to defeat the No. 3 Broncos and crushed BSU’s hopes of playing in a Bowl Championship Series game. Matthews scored on a 44-yard rush and caught the game-tying touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. He finished the game with 10 catches for 172 yards in the 34-31 overtime victory.
Matthews said, “The Boise game was my most memorable moment at UNR. It was everyone’s biggest. I hadn’t been in the Reno area for very long, but I knew how much it meant to the community.”
Matthews began the Dolphins’ training camp Thursday and knows he has a lot of work ahead to solidify a consistent role with the Miami offense. Gibson, Hartline and Keller all return from injuries, and the team selected receiver Jarvis Landry of Louisiana State University in the second round of the 2014 draft.
“I just want to continue to improve and contribute to the team any way I can. Those guys are talented, but they bring out the best in me,” said Matthews.
The Dolphins have a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, who replaces Mike Sherman. Lazor was the quarterback coach for the Philadelphia Eagles last season and helped transform Nick Foles into the NFL’s top-rated passer and a Pro-Bowl selection.
“The system is completely different now. We are more up-tempo and use a lot of motion. I’m excited to see what the offense can do this year,” said Matthews.
Matthews believes the Dolphins are poised to compete for the American Football Conference’s East Division title and even make it to the Super Bowl.
Matthews said, “Why not? You have to believe in yourself and in your team... I love how hard Ryan (Tannehill) works and how he carries himself. I think he will become an elite quarterback in the league.”
Matthews hopes to play an important role in the offense but is willing to come off the bench or play special teams. He also has the ability to look at life beyond football.
“In 10 years, I hope to be successful at whatever I do. If I am still playing football that would be great, if not, I want to be successful at my job and be a great family man,” Matthews said.