(SportsNetwork.com) - Texas A&M isn't quite at the level of "Linebacker U" (Penn State) just yet but the Aggies are well on their way to earning their own tag, having stockpiled some pretty impressive offensive tackle talent in recent years.
Luke Joeckel was drafted No. 2 overall by Jacksonville last year, while Jake Matthews is shaping up as a potential top-10 pick this time around. Fast forward to 2015 and Cedric Ogbuehi might be one of the first few names you hear called at Radio City Music Hall.
"That's always been something really special, just the caliber of players we've had at A&M, especially on the offensive line," Matthews said. " Every day was a battle, I really think it helped each of us become the players we are now."
For now the focus is on Matthews, the latest link in an impressive football lineage which has given us Clay Jr. (Jake's uncle), who played 19 seasons as a linebacker for Cleveland and Atlanta, and Clay III (his cousin), the current Packers' superstar, as well as Jake's father Bruce, a Hall of Famer who made 10 All-Pro teams during his brilliant 19-year career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise.
"I think my earliest memory of him playing is when (the Titans) went to the Super Bowl in 1999," Matthews said when talking about his father. "But I've gone back and looked at him -- just a guy who played hard, finished, really impressive to watch."
Years from now when you're navigating through Ancestry.com, you'll also find that Clay Matthews Sr. (granddad) also played four NFL seasons with San Francisco in the 1950s, and Clay III's brother is a special-teamer on the Eagles (Casey). Meanwhile, Jake's brothers, Kevin and Mike, have both played center at Texas A&M.
"I'd like to think I wasn't grandfathered in," Matthews joked when talking about his future NFL career. "I hope I earned my way here. It is special the family I came from and the relationships I have with my dad and cousins and brothers and all the people who have gone through this process."
The latest Matthews on the NFL's radar projects closer to the star level of his dad, uncle and more famous cousin, although it's always hard to assume a Hall-of-Fame career or even Pro-Bowl recognition.
"I'm trying to do the same thing (my dad) did, and if I could do half the things he did, I think I'd have a great career," Matthews said. "It's gonna be hard to get to 19 years and 14 straight Pro Bowls, that could be difficult. That's a pretty lofty goal to shoot for."
Jake spent four years at College Station, spending three at right tackle before flipping sides during his senior season after Joeckel left for the NFL.
"(I was) real close with Luke," Matthews said. "We came in together at A&M, we always worked out together, competed against each other. Just real excited to see where he's come and how he's playing and real proud of him. He deserves it, he's a great player. He's been a great resource for me to have."
That position versatility, along with the prototypical NFL tackle build (6- foot-5, 310 pounds), has many proclaiming Matthews as one of the two or three safest picks in what figures to be the deepest draft in well over a decade.
"He's the "Secretariat" (of this tackle class)," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said when discussing Matthews. "He has been schooled well in the run game and the pass game."
The athleticism is certainly there with Matthews as is the technique. On tape, the Lone Star State native flashes a natural knee bend and outstanding balance and leverage. The movement skills while getting out to pull are also top notch as is his weight room and functional football strength.
In the run game, Matthews got consistent movement at the college level and easily got to the second level when asked. As a pass protector, he set his feet very quickly, stayed patient and mirrored better than just about anyone else.
The fact that Matthews played in a fast-paced, spread offense in college also helps. His cardio and conditioning is top notch which should give him a leg up as more and more teams shift toward a basketball-on-turf mentality.
The knocks against Matthews are small and almost come across like nit-picking with some pointing out the fact that Auburn's Greg Robinson and possibly Michigan's Taylor Lewan have higher ceilings as prospects.
"I mean they're great players. But at the same time, I think I'm a great player, too," Matthews said
Others detractors point to the Aggies' offense and don't like that Matthews spent most of his time in a 2-point stance, something that often breeds players into a finesse mentality and leaves them unable to fire off the ball on a consistent basis. That makes some NFL teams question whether Matthews can become the kind of road-grader needed in short-yardage situations.
In the end, the pedigree coupled with the talent Matthews brings to the table should temper any concerns.
"Being considered a polished player, someone who's done a lot and played well in my life, I'll take that as a (compliment)." Matthews said. "At the same time, I still feel like there's a lot I can get better at. I definitely wouldn't say I'm at my peak. There is a lot more I can learn, a lot more I can get better at."
The Sports Network's top offensive tackles in the 2014 NFL Draft:
1. - Greg Robinson, Auburn
2. - Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
3. - Taylor Lewan, Michigan
4. - Zack Martin, Notre Dame (also projects at offensive guard)
5. - Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
6. - Morgan Moses, Virginia
7. - Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
8. - James Hurst, North Carolina
9. - Cameron Fleming, Stanford
10. - Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
The Sports Network's Stock Watch:
Sleeper - Seantrel Henderson, Miami (FL)
Small School Standouts - Billy Turner, North Dakota St; Laurent Duvernay- Tardif, McGill
Risk/Reward - Lewan; Kouandjio