NASHVILLE, Tn -- (Mark McCarter) The first time he saw it, driving into Nashville from his home in Madison, even Jordan Matthews was caught off guard and in awe.
There he was, stretched across the breadth of a billboard along busy Interstate 65, among all the other billboards featuring country stars and cows with spelling deficiencies and hair-restoration clinics.
it reads in huge bold letters. And underneath, there is Matthews, Vanderbilt's All-SEC receiver and former Madison Academy star, stretching a left hand out for a one-hand catch.
Similar billboards for Vanderbilt football are elsewhere. An identical one to this one greets travelers veering off I-24 and skirting downtown Nashville toward Vanderbilt.
"Funny thing, I didn't know where it was," Matthews said. "When I finally saw it, it was a quick second thing. I barely got to admire it. To me, it's cool, but I don't want to look at it. That's all based on last year."
Vanderbilt, which hosts UAB Saturday at 6 p.m., is coming off a 24-7 win in which Matthews scored on a dazzling 11-yard touchdown reception. He caught the ball near the left side, reversed field and hurdled one defender.
"We didn't have a track team back when I was in high school , but we did play basketball, so that's probably where I got my hops from," Matthews told The (Nashville) Tennessean. "I just saw a black (uniform) under my feet, so I was like, 'Might as well jump.' "
Matthews, expected to be a high-round NFL draft choice next spring, could well become the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading receiver. He has 182 catches, 54 shy of the record held by Birmingham native and former Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett.
Matthews leads the SEC with 32 catches this season and is second in receiving yards at 471. He has three TD receptions, tying him for fourth in the SEC.
He has 20 career touchdowns, second all-time on Vanderbilt's career list and only one shy of the record. He needs 206 more yards to match the school career record of 2,964, set by Boo Mitchell.