CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The phone rang inside Jake Matthews' hotel room early Thursday morning. Not his cell phone -- that was on silent, so he missed the 10 or so calls trying to reach him. This was his hotel room phone.
He hadn't had a hotel wake-up call since college, so Matthews picked up the phone and knew something was either wrong -- or it was time. Fortunately it was the good kind of emergency: His wife, Meggi, had been in labor for a couple of hours and his first child was about to be born.
So began the adventure that was Matthews getting home in time to see Beckett Thomas Matthews be born around 3 p.m. It involved multiple decisions, a rental car speeding down Interstate 85 and a nervous soon-to-be dad trying to figure it all out.
"It was just scrambling making a decision of what to do," Matthews said. "Hoping to catch a flight and that didn't work out so forget it, we'll jump in a car and let's drive."
None of this was supposed to happen Thursday, even though Meggi joked that the birth would come on or around a game day. When they spoke on the phone Wednesday evening, Matthews didn't think too much of it. He figured he'd play, get back and their plan to induce the birth Sunday would go on as scheduled -- after all, Beckett was going to be around four weeks early anyway.
But the Matthews' best-laid plans went to the land of the unexpected.
Before he left in the car, he first spoke to Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who told him he absolutely should go and that he had plenty of time to get back for Thursday night's 8:15 p.m. kickoff, in which the Falcons ended up losing, 25-15.
Then he tried to decide if he would take a commercial flight (he didn't), charter a private plane (none were available on short notice) or drive. With no flight options, a member of the Falcons' security staff sped down the interstate starting at 9:30 a.m. with Matthews trying to lie down, hydrate and eat to keep a semblance of his pre-game football process.
Of course, nothing about Thursday would be routine.
Interspersed on the drive down were calls with Meggi, his parents, Meggi's mom, his siblings, Smith and his offensive line coach, Dwayne Ledford, who was updating him on meetings just to keep him prepared. At one point, he FaceTimed into one of the meetings to crack a couple of jokes and assure the backup linemen that yes, he would be able to be back on time.
"[Tracked] a little bit but we didn't want to bug him too bad, man," right tackle Kaleb McGary said. "He was having his first kid, you know. You didn't want to be badgering the guy."
Matthews arrived at the hospital at 12:30 p.m. and Meggi was already on her way. Matthews said the doctors even had to slow the pregnancy down once they found out he was coming. But once he was there, they let nature take its course.
Matthews was part of the delivery process and he admitted there were times he started to glance at the clock on the wall to see if he'd end up being able to pull off the birth and the game. His wife, Meggi, noticed and quickly snapped him back into the more pressing reality.
"He came and it was perfect timing," Matthews said. "He was healthy and he was perfect. It was a whirlwind."
Mom & Dad of the Year pic.twitter.com/v2WvgoQcdy— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 11, 2022
Matthews helped deliver his son -- the name Beckett was picked out by him and Meggi six months into dating and Thomas is also Matthews' middle name -- and handed him off to his wife. She held him for five minutes. Then Matthews got 15 minutes to hold his son, took a couple of pictures and left the hospital to get to Falcons owner Arthur Blank's private plane.
Finally, Matthews got to the stadium and entered the Atlanta locker room to big cheers, a round of applause, back slaps and a lot of hugs.
"Says a lot about Jake," Smith said. "Got to be there for the birth of his first child and came back and wanted to play."
Matthews then made his 137th start in a row for the Falcons at left tackle, once again playing every snap for Atlanta on the same day where he got to see his son enter the world as the latest part of a football family spanning three generations.
When you have a baby during the day, but Thursday Night Football at 8:15 pic.twitter.com/ybKJWGr7ax— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 11, 2022
Then his plan was to fly back with the team, sleep for a couple of hours and head back to the hospital to help take care of his son for the second day of his new life.
"It's mixed emotions because the first part of it was incredible to hold my first-born son and see how amazing she did and then obviously making it back here," Matthews said. "It would have been nice to win but give them credit, they outplayed us today."
Matthews might not remember much about how the Falcons did Thursday. He will, though, remember every other part of one of the bigger days of his life.