SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is heading for a storybook destination now that 49ers minicamp is complete. He’s off to France, where his wife, Cheyna, is playing for Jamaica in its first-ever Women’s World Cup.
“We’re in this crazy phase right now,” Matthews said after Wednesday’s practice. “She’s watched me play on this (NFL) stage, and now she’s playing on the biggest soccer stage in the world.”
It’s a fabulous phase that Matthews’ former Philadelphia Eagles teammate, Zach Ertz, knows quite well. Ertz’s wife, Julie, is a star defender on the favored U.S. Women’s National Team.
“Julie and Zach have been really close to us ever since we got to Philly,” Jordan said. “Once Jamaica (qualified), Zach knew Cheyna was Jamaican, and so he was one of the first to text me, ‘Is she going to go?’ Julie was, ‘Tell Cheyna I’m so happy for her. It’s going to be awesome they’re coming out too.’ ”
Less than 24 hours to go Mood: pic.twitter.com/wX8IEKxy3T
— Cheyna Matthews (@Cheynalee_) June 8, 2019
Cheyna started at forward as Jamaica’s so-called Raggae Girlz made Sunday’s Women’s World Cup debut, a 3-0 loss to Brazil.
“She had a great game against Brazil,” her husband said. “They have a young team. They were jittery early on but then got settled in.”
We had fun in training today with the #ReggaeGirlz conext19 mini-ball challenge. 1⃣ striker, 2⃣ goalkeepers. Not many scored but Trudi Carter and @Cheynalee_ were the top strikers, while Jody Brown was top keeper. #ReggaeGirlz
A we bring di vibes @FIFAWWC#FIFAWWC #DareToShine pic.twitter.com/S1HRkjldIb
— Kayon Davis, FIFA (@FIFAWWC_JAM) June 12, 2019
After completing his first offseason program on the 49ers receiving corps, Jordan Matthews won’t make it in time for Jamaica’s next game, on Friday against Italy. But once he lands in Paris on Saturday, he’ll head for Grenoble near the French Alps for Tuesday’s game against Australia.
“Once the World Cup ends, my wife is still playing pro soccer in D.C. (for the Washington Spirit), so I literally fly to France with the luggage I’m going to fly to D.C. with and train with the whole offseason,” Matthews said.
“This is my life now for the offseason. I used to go to Nashville and train at Vanderbilt. The father and husband life is a lot different. It’s so fun, though.”
How Cheyna Matthews made it to France is quite a tale, especially so in that it’s been less than a year since she spent 27 hours in labor delivering the couple’s first child.
“Having the opportunity to compete in a World Cup nine months after giving birth to a strong, healthy boy is a unique and precious blessing that I can’t take for granted,” she wrote in a story last week for JustWomensSports.com. “I know that when I step onto that field in Paris as a new mother, representing both my country and my family — I’ll have already won.”
Born in Massachusetts, she is of Jamaican descent through her mother’s side.
“Her grandad, who’s passed away, always wanted to see Cheyna play for Jamaica,” Jordan said. “But growing up in the U.S., there’s always that pressure, ‘Play for U.S. Women’s National Team.’ ”
— Cheyna Matthews (@Cheynalee_) June 10, 2019
After meeting Jordan in college at Vanderbilt, Cheyna transferred after two years to Florida State, where she helped win a national championship and earn an invitation to a U.S. National Team camp. A broken ankle derailed her U.S. chances, but Jamaican coach Hue Menzies courted her, and then saved her a roster spot after her pregnancy.
No angle. No problem.
What a run. What persistence. What a goal from @Cheynalee_!
0-1 | #NJvWAS
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 11, 2019
While her husband somewhat resurrected his career in a return to the Eagles (after stints with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots), she balanced her newfound motherhood with her newfound World Cup ambitions.
“She’d wake up and train down at King of Prussia every single day, getting her body back, getting her stamina back,” Jordan said. “She’s gone full speed ahead and got a starting spot.”
At 5 a.m. Wednesday before the 49ers final offseason practice, Jordan received an overseas video call from his wife and son saying hello from France. Yeah, that’s a pretty good excuse why they won’t all be together for the 49ers’ third annual family picnic Thursday.
“My son, he’s been to Jamaica, California and France, and he can’t even walk yet. We’re really blessed,” Jordan said.
Jordan, a cousin of 49ers icon Jerry Rice, has brought five years of NFL experience, 270 career receptions and 23 touchdowns to a youth-laden receiving corps. He’s also healthy after injuries stalled his career, which began promisingly as a 2014 second-round pick of the Eagles.
“he day Jordan got here, he had about twice as many catches as all our receivers combined,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “… We wanted to bring in a veteran guy with some size who had been there before and done it. Jordan has. He’s played for a few different organizations. He’s played in different systems. He’s a tough player, he’s got some size, he’s got speed. He’s extremely smart and he’s a pro.”
And he’s a proud husband and father with a passport to punch.