"Me and my dad have been practicing all my life for this. He's taught me everything I know. I'm just ready to go out there and play," Mattes said when he met with reporters Monday. "My dad was an NFL player back in his day and he's been teaching me how to be an offensive lineman since I was a little kid. I remember when I was in middle school, and I was kick stepping."
The man who taught R.J. ‘everything he knows,' his father Ron Mattes, played for Virginia and played seven seasons along the offensive line in the NFL. Tom O'Brien coached offensive line at Virginia when Ron Mattes played defensive line for the Cavaliers and the younger Mattes said the previous relationship between his father and O'Brien most certainly impacted his decision to attend NC State.
"They were good friends and the decision to come here because of O'Brien was a big part of it," he said. "Coach O'Brien is putting lineman in the NFL all the time – he's got a great track record back at Boston College."
Recruited as a tackle out of Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord, N.C., Mattes made the switch to guard in the spring and hasn't looked back since, earning the starting position at right guard when Tom O'Brien released the depth chart Friday.
Mattes said the time between the spring practices and summer camp allowed him to get adjusted to the position.
"It was a big transition because guard and tackle are two completely different positions. You go from kick stepping back to getting ready for contact immediately," he said. "It was hard at first but they moved me during spring ball so I had time to get used to it and adjust and in fall camp I got better at it and earned my spot."
Mattes said extra film study and the leadership of senior captain Jeraill McCuller have also helped him prepare for the biggest game of his life Thursday.
"We have offensive line meetings all the time and me and Jeraill McCuller went in early this week," Mattes said. "He's been a big help for me, being a captain and all. He's taken me under his wing."
Mattes will certainly rely on McCuller to his right and center Ted Larsen to his left when he takes the field against the Gamecocks on national television. Mattes said he knows he will be nervous for the first portion of the game.
"It was my childhood dream to start on national TV, it's going to be the biggest stage on television," he said. "Everyone is going to be watching and I'm going to be nervous but they say it's a good thing to be nervous. After that first hit I'll be ready to roll. I'm going be jacked up... out of my mind."
Mattes won't be the only member of the Wolfpack making his debut Thursday night. Mattes' good friend and roommate Mike Glennon will see the first action of his career as well. Coach Tom O'Brien has said Glennon will see significant action in crucial situations as early as the second quarter.
Glennon has been as excited as anyone to hit the field, according to Mattes.
"We're just getting ready," Mattes said of himself and Glennon. "He's pretty excited because Coach O'Brien told him he'll be playing by the second quarter for sure probably. We've been going over defenses too so he's pretty excited for his first college game. It's not going to be a big drop off from Russell to Mike. Mike has a cannon and we'll probably show it off Thursday night."
With the season opener now just one day away, Mattes and the rest of the Wolfpack must certainly be counting the hours to kickoff.
"I stood on the sideline last year but it's going to be totally different playing," he said. "Wolfpack Nation will be out there being loud like they always are."