By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews’ knowledge of military life comes from watching both of his parents, who have worked for the Department of Defense from the time he was born.
“They both worked there over 25 years,’’ Matthews said as he and his teammates prepared for the Bills’ Salute to Service Day when they hosted the New Orleans Saints on November 12. “It’s all I knew growing up.’’
Matthews’ parents, Roderick and Brenda, began with the Department of Defense under then-President George H.W. Bush. They also worked under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.
“I know one thing in particular when it came to the election whoever the president was, no matter who won, my mom and dad when they went to work they had the utmost respect for the Commander in Chief,’’ Jordan said. “There was never any slandering of the President in my house. We held the office and the military in high regard all the time.’’
When the Bills hosted the Saints at New Era Field, they recognized each of the four military branches — the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines — before the playing of the National Anthem. During the anthem, 300 veterans held a field-size flag and were recognized by the crowd.
Finally, and most notably, in between the first and second quarters, Bills owner and CEO Terry Pegula surprised Master Sgt. James Kozma with a service dog. Kozma retired from the Marines in 2014 and had requested a service dog, but had been on a long waiting list. Pegula and the Bills made sure that wait ended.
“I would say so,’’ Matthews said of respecting the military from his childhood. “We definitely had a very strict upbringing the way my brother (Justin) and I were raised. We knew both of our parents worked long hours, long days, so that work ethic was ingrained in us at a young age. That also shaped the way I felt about the military.’’
Roderick Matthews is the Director of Contracts for the DOD.
“ATVs, missiles, helicopters, all of the things they use in the army, he’s the one who finalizes the contracts to make all the purchases,’’ Matthews said. “He’s really climbed up the ladder. He’s kind of big-time, now.’’
Brenda is a computer engineer for the DOD.
“She’s kind of big time, too,’’ Matthews said, making sure not to sell his mother, short.
Matthews, whose cousin is NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, grew up in Huntsville, Alabama where his parents worked. His father, however, made several trips to Washington D.C., and all across the country.
“One of his stops was Philadelphia,’’ Matthews said. “When I was playing (for the Eagles) he asked for any trip he could get to Philly.’’
But it was watching what his parents did, and admiring it, that formed Matthews’ opinions on what was right and wrong.
“The whole military,’’ he said. “When you grow up in the environment I grew up around, you don’t just listen to the propaganda on the news and all of that. You actually see people whose lives are affected by this every single day. That really made me appreciate the military life.’’