The phone call gave Mike Matthews a sneak preview, but the walls of the Browns' facility in Berea made the significance really sink in.
Matthews' bloodlines have been a storyline ever since he put on a helmet. The son of Hall of Fame left tackle Bruce Matthews, brother of Atlanta Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews, nephew of Browns legend Clay Matthews and cousin of Green Bay Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews III, Mike has answered countless questions about what it's like to grow up in one of football's most prolific families. Not blessed with the same, prototypical size as his father and brother, Mike earned every snap he received at Texas A&M, where he was a three-year starter at center.
His family history gave him a clear sense of what to expect on draft weekend, but it didn't earn him any favors. Matthews went undrafted, but he had a plan that was high on practicality and low on sentimentality. With a few offers on the table, Matthews (6-2, 300) signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent.
"We went through every single team, all 32 teams, and we decided who needed the most help interior-wise between guard and center," Matthews said. "And then after the draft we went through the list and the Browns were No. 1 on the list."
And of course, that decision was No. 1 in the heart of Uncle Clay, who promptly called his nephew once the news broke.
"He told me I was going to love it here. The people are awesome, the fans are awesome, the weather is beautiful except in the winter, but I told him I loved the cold," Matthews said. "I figure I'll be regretting that 10 days into a snowstorm."
The rookies took to FirstEnergy Stadium for the first time.
When Matthews arrived in Berea alongside the team's 14 draft picks and nine other undrafted free agents, that message hit hard when he glanced at the wall of the Browns team meeting room. There, with numerous other prolific Browns, was his uncle's name, recognized for the three Pro Bowls and 1,430 tackles he made for the franchise over the course of 232 games from 1978-93.
That's when it got real.
"That's pretty awesome," Matthews said. "It's definitely a blessing and I'm just really excited to be here."
Though he's capable of sliding over to guard, Matthews expects to be a center throughout the offseason leading into his rookie year. He'll provide competition for second-year player Cameron Erving, who is moving to the position after spending most of last year at guard.
The Browns made moves to fill the depth gaps at guard and center throughout the offseason, but opted for two projected tackles -- Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango -- in the draft. With the offseason departure of Pro Bowler Alex Mack, center is a position at which the Browns could use some reliable depth, and that's what Matthews has certainly proven he can be up to this point.
"If a guy can play, he can play. We are giving him an opportunity, and we will see more of him as we go," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "Obviously, his bloodlines are spectacular. As we all know, that doesn't get you on a football team. He has to earn the right to be here. I think he understands that, as well. I think that is the way that he would want it to be."
Matthews didn't enter the NFL the way his father, brother, uncle or cousin did. His motivation, though, centers on leaving his own mark in a familiar place.
"It doesn't matter how you got there, I'm here now," Matthews said. "It's just time for me to play football and do what I've done my entire life.
"All the draft stock and all that status doesn't mean anything now. I'm just trying to do my best every single day, give it my all, see whatever happens and know whatever happens, I did the best I could to reach that."