In his two seasons with the Jets, FS Matthias Farley has played an important role on special teams, this season as one of the unit's captains.
Now, the North Carolina native and Notre Dame grad is playing another role on another of the Jets' special teams -- the Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusion Team -- which along with club ownership, senior executives, and players has identified four areas in which to focus: poverty, racial equality, and diversity and inclusion; criminal justice reform:, police-community relations: and access to education and healthcare.
"I'm a product of a biracial family," Farley told The Official Jets Podcast this week. "The way they [our parents] loved us, the way my [six] siblings grew up, people are just people. Growing up in biracial household made it easy to love everybody because I'm related to everybody. They might be different and look different and have different interests. But we all have basic human needs that we all share. The focus should be on things that bring us together."
Last week, just before Christmas, the Jets announced a $1 million donation to four partner groups -- All Stars Project, Innocence Project, New York Urban League and Year Up -- each receiving $225,000. As part of the social justice initiative and the donations, Jets players, coaches, and staff will volunteer with the organizations.
"This has been a crazy year in a lot of ways, a lot of social unrest," Farley said. "It's great for Mr. Johnson to verbally support players and really put his money where his mouth is. I've gone out to the community with the player counsel and we've targeted four organizations for a lasting impact. Something that is ongoing in the community. It's amazing to see the ownership of teams and the leadership within the organization and the players getting involved, united over these important issues in our country today. It's important to have ownership that backs you and gets into the trenches.
"It starts from my upbringing, humbly in Charlotte. I can remember vividly a couple of Panthers players coming to my school. I was in third or fourth grade and here are these living, walking superheroes and it had a big impact on me. I idolized athletes, and they came to share their time, it really meant a lot. On the other end, I want to use this platform I've been given. This [an NFL career] doesn't last forever, which is why I think it's important to go out and do good. While backed by the NFL shield and the Jets organization, it's important to give back. You don't know how you could impact someone's life."
Farley came into the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent signed by Arizona, but was among the team's final cuts. He latched on with Indianapolis and spent four seasons with the Colts. He joined the Jets before the start of the 2019 season. This season, Farley has appeared in all 15 games, seeing limited time in the defensive backfield but leading the special teams unit coached by Brant Boyer. In eight games, he logged more than 80% of the snaps on special teams, but has since seen his time on specials decline as he gains playing time at safety. Against the Browns last Sunday, Farley was on the field for 41% of the snaps on special teams, but also 80% of the snaps on defense.
With the final game of the season -- at New England on Sunday -- only days away, Farley is full of praise for his teammates and their commitment to stay together and stay positive through a challenging season.
"This is a really special group," he said. "Obviously, the season hasn't gone how any of us wanted it to go, or how we prepared for it to go, or how we were expecting it to go. But guys stuck together. It speaks to the character of the guys in the locker room. It's been a different kind of year with no fans, the energy you have to bring yourself. The guys still show up for work, trying to get better. It's funny, but COVID has made the group closer in a lot of ways. We're always in a little pod or group, and it made the locker room a lot tighter. For us to win the last two games it speaks to a testament to the character of guys. We all love the game and our only expectation is to go out there and try to get a win."
Though Farley has lived a football life, it's not the only thing in his life. At Notre Dame, he befriended Cory Robinson (the son of the former NBA star David Robinson) who taught him to play the ukulele. "He's a great guy and I wanted to be like Corey, so I got a ukulele. I go on YouTube to learn a bit. I'm very rudimentary."
He has also stepped out of his comfort zone, that being the United States, and was part of an American Football Without Barriers tour that took him and nearly two dozen other players to Portugal, Hungary and Germany conducting camps. "It was an awesome, incredible experience," he said. "It sparked my interest in traveling and I got to be an ambassador for the sport."
Farley -- like so many of us these days -- is spending most of his time at home with his wife and dog, Harper, a German short-haired pointer.
Around his teammates and the game, Farley is convinced that the renewed movement for social justice has brought players, regardless of team, together and forged a new consciousness.
"It's been a huge uniting force," he said. "Teams compete against each other, all chasing the same results whether it's the Super Bowl, European soccer, whatever. When something brings everyone together like, social injustice in our country, it's special to be part of.
"It's bigger than sports."