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Colts 2022 Draft Interviews: Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State

Meet Valdosta State cornerback Christian Matthew. We discuss his collegiate career, his film study as a cornerback, and what the future could hold in the NFL.

Christian Matthew is a former three-star recruit that committed to Georgia Southern out of Chattahoochee High School in Columbus, Georgia. He appeared in nine games for the Eagles, logging 19 tackles and one interception in his time with the school.

After his sophomore season in 2018, he decided to transfer to the FCS level and play at Samford University. He appeared in 19 games for the Bulldogs, totaling 29 tackles and four pass breakups in his time there.

I asked him about the decision to transfer and why he ultimately decided on playing at Samford over other FCS schools:

Around that time, the transfer portal actually wasn't a thing. You either transferred up and had to sit out a year, or you could transfer to a lower level and play right away. I decided to go to a lower level so I could play right away.

Samford has some great guys that have come out of there. Jaquiski Tartt and James Bradberry IV came out of there around the same time. That weighed heavy into my decision. Seeing those guys do it from a small school helped me become a Samford Bulldog.

For his final season of eligibility, Matthew opted to again transfer, this time to Valdosta State. In his time with the school, he totaled 37 tackles, 15 pass deflections, an interception, and a blocked kick with the Division II school.

Since Matthew brought up the draft pedigree of Samford and said that it heavily influenced his decision to go there, I asked him if the same was true for his transfer down to Valdosta State (a school that currently has three cornerbacks in the NFL in Kenny Moore II, Kindle Vildor, and Stephen Denmark):

It absolutely played into the decision. More than anything though, it is a powerhouse school with a chance to win a championship. We ended up going to the National Championship, didn't finish the way we wanted to, but that was a cool experience.

After his final year in college, Matthew was invited to participate against some of the best seniors in the country in the College Gridiron Showcase All Star Game. While the game may be the "little brother" bowl game of the draft season, it does have a good pedigree of helping players reach the NFL.

I asked Matthew about his experience with that event:

It was cool. It is kind of viewed like an afterthought bowl, but it wasn't that for me. It was an elite opportunity for me. There were 12 draft picks just last year and over 80 guys getting signed, so there is a lot of NFL talent at that bowl game.

Me being from a smaller school at Valdosta State getting to compete against elite talent was a huge opportunity for me. I think I did my job down there.

Learning to Adjust Through Transfers

It is rare to see a player transfer twice in college football. The interesting part about it is it gives evaluators a chance to see how Matthew adjusted to different schemes and different situations in his college career.

With the NFL being a major adjustment from college, teams being able to see Matthew go through a series of adjustments while in college could help his evaluation. I asked him about the learning curve of playing at three different schools in his career:

When you are talking about defenses and coverages, there really isn't too much you can change. You have your basic coverages, the biggest change is just verbiage. Everybody had a different language and a few nuanced things that might change, but it wasn't a lot. The learning curve was pretty easy for me.

I did get lucky, in a way. I played at all man-heavy schools. Even in our zones, they turned into more match-zones. I played a lot of man and that kept it pretty simple for me. I got the guy in front of me and just had to lock him up.

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Talking Man Coverage and the "Dog Mentality"

When I evaluate a cornerback, the number one thing I look for is if the player has the "dog mentality." To me, this is the way that a corner has to assert their dominance and make life difficult for receivers on every play.

I asked Matthew about this type of mentality and if it is something that he tries to incorporate in his game:

It is a hard job, it is a very difficult job (playing corner). You are on an island. It is you vs an elite receiver and sometimes an elite quarterback. If you don't believe in yourself, you are already putting yourself at a disadvantage. You have to have the ultimate belief in yourself and that high competitive pedigree because it is a tough job. Without those two things, you are going to struggle.

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Since Matthew was a man coverage cornerback in college, I started to dive into his preferences in press coverages. Being that he is a 6'2" player, teams will likely want to see him in a lot of press opportunities in the NFL.

I asked him about his preferred press technique in coverage:

I like the inch technique. It is basically like a small motor, but it is a little more patient. I like to be patient and get my feet active. I think the more patient you are, the more you are able to put your hands on a receiver. In the inch technique, I feel much more comfortable with attacking what the receiver wants to do.

Film Study as a Cornerback

I've learned a lot over the years from these interviews with players. The aspect that I have always found the most fascinating is how they study their opponents and how they analyze their certain match-ups throughout the week.

I asked Matthew what his film study is like prior to playing against a particular match-up:

I study his tendencies quite a lot actually. After that, you really want to study his splits. What routes does he like to run out of a certain split two yards inside the numbers? What about two yards outside the numbers? I can essentially eliminate routes in my head based on what he is showing me pre-snap.

That way, I don't overreact to something that he is trying to give me. He wants to sell me something to get me off of my spot, that is why eliminating routes is so important. Film study allows me to be as calm and cool as possible when I'm up in his face.

I brought up that the real disadvantage that corners have is that receivers know the route and know the play pre-snap. When you are a corner, it is a bit more of a guessing game.

Matthew, politely, cut me off when I said it was a guessing game:

It's not much of a guess, it's more like... let me give you a scenario. If I know that he likes to run out-routes with splits two yards inside of the numbers, then I'm not necessarily going to guess, but I will align myself a little bit outside. That way, it helps me out if he does try to run that out route (which should be a high percentage play).

I'm still playing my same technique, but my alignment has changed. It just gives me better positioning on the routes that I think are coming my way. 

NFL Draft Prospects

It is extremely hard to make it in the NFL, especially for an older prospect out of Valdosta State. Matthew knows that there is a very good chance that this doesn't work out for him. With how he will test and with a good offseason, though, he should get a look from some teams.

I concluded this interview by asking Matthew how he would sell himself to a NFL team. What is my team getting when they draft/sign Christian Matthew?

I would just tell them that I am a resilient person. I have been to multiple schools, have had success at those schools, and I've shown the ability to succeed in environments that aren't necessarily perfect.

It takes a different type of person mentally to succeed in the NFL, when you know you can get cut or traded at any moment. A lot of that could weigh on certain guys and there's a lot that goes into being a NFL player on the mental side of it.

I'm just going to sell myself as somebody that is mentally strong and able to succeed in any type of environment or role for a team.

I'm not going to sit here and say that Matthew is a player that the Colts should absolutely draft in this class. It is a long shot that he even gets selected at all. I love his mentality, though, and he has the traits to play in the league.

With the Colts' connections to Valdosta State (through James Rowe and Kenny Moore II), I wouldn't be surprised if the team takes a look at him this offseason. If he comes into the league with the mindset he talks about above, I can absolutely see him making it in the NFL.

Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

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