Ole Miss head football coach Matt Luke piped in the Aggie War Hymn during practice this week to mentally prepare his Rebels for Saturday’s game at Kyle Field. It was sweet music for sophomore backup offensive lineman Bryce Mathews, whose parents are Aggies.
“He said he was the only one who knew all the words,” said Jason Mathews, who played at Texas A&M from 1991-93, earning first-team All-Southwest Conference honors his senior season at offensive tackle.
Bryce claims some of his first words were “Gig ’em.”
“It was not hard to root for the Aggies growing up with both of them having been there,” Bryce said.
Saturday, though, will be only Bryce’s second time at Kyle Field for a game. He did visit the campus when he was in the eighth grade. That’s the lone time Jason Mathews has been back to Aggieland. He’s been kind of busy since he left. He had an 11-year NFL career with Indianapolis and Tennessee after getting drafted in the third round by the Colts in 1994. He’s now the admissions director and offensive line coach for Brentwood Academy, one of Tennessee’s more successful high school programs. The Eagles, three-time defending state champions, played Christian Brothers on Friday night in the Division II-AA state quarterfinals in Memphis, so Jason won’t attend Saturday’s game.
“It was always hard for him to get back [to A&M],” Bryce said. “But by the time I got to eighth grade, they said they really wanted to show me the campus.”
He loved it just as much as his parents. Bryce returned four years ago on a recruiting trip.
“I’d seen A&M games before, but just not any at Kyle Field,” Bryce said.
Saturday will be different, because he’ll be on the field.
“I said you have no idea about what you’re about to walk into and how loud it’s going to be,” Jason said.
There’s a good chance the younger Mathews will see action. Offensive line is one of Ole Miss’ strengths with four upperclassmen, but Mathews has played in five games.
“This is a big deal for him,” Jason said. “He’s grown up loving that place, hearing about that place every Saturday through the good times and through the 77-0 stuff (the 2002 loss at Oklahoma). He’s been a part of that place.”
Bryce Mathews opted to attend Ole Miss because it’s only four hours from home. He wanted family at as many games as possible, and he’s somewhat of a home body.
“I know [dad would have] liked to have seen me at A&M,” Bryce said. “But in no way did he try to force it on me. He knew I made the right decision for me.”
Jason Mathews had the pleasure of molding his son into a collegiate linemen.
“I was the only one. There was no getting around it,” Jason said. “He’s not hard to coach. He’s a very coachable kid, and we were very fortunate to have success during those years.”
Tennessee Volunteers starting center Ryan Johnson was one of Jason Mathews’ pupils and a teammate of Bryce.
“And a couple of the other guys are playing at different [collegiate] levels,” Jason said. “It wasn’t a hard O-line to coach, but it was a memorable one for me. I appreciate those guys.”
Jason also managed to teach his son in the classroom his senior season. Bryce said his dad wore all three hats well.
“That was a fun four years to spend time with him,” Bryce said.
Saturday will be an emotional day for Bryce Mathews, said his father.
“I think it’s a little bit bittersweet for him, because he knows that’s where his mom and dad went to school,” Jason said.
Jason Mathews never lost a home game at Kyle Field, nor did he lose to Texas.
“The old Kyle Field it was always rocking,” Jason said. “I don’t care if we were playing Baylor — they were good at that time — or Houston or TCU or Texas Tech … it was always full.”
Jason Mathews, who played at Bridge City, went to BYU because of all the talk about possible NCAA sanctions against A&M. But not long after getting to BYU it was announced that A&M wouldn’t get any sanctions. Mathews got to A&M as quickly as possible. It also helped that his eventual wife was headed there.
“We had a good group of guys,” Mathews said. “I know the program had been big before we got there, but we helped build it back up.”
A&M, which won three straight SEC titles under Jackie Sherrill from 1985-87, won three more under R.C. Slocum from 1991-93.
“We felt really good about where we left the program when we left,” Mathews said.
NOTES — The elder Mathews still watches game film of his son and offers critiques, Bryce said. … Bryce Mathews’ mother and sister will be part of about 20 relatives at the game, and Bryce will be the only one not an Aggie. “He’ll be the odd man out, but that’s all right,” Jason said. … The younger Mathews is finishing his undergraduate degree in managerial finance.
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