Monday, June 18, 2012

Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson

As with Mother’s Day, my original intent for this post was to profile a few of the famous fathers of NFL stars.  The obvious starting points were Archie Manning, father of Super Bowl-champion quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning (I introduced you to mom Olivia Manning on Mother’s Day)...

...and Howie Long—former defensive end, current Fox Network analyst and father of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long.

Proud papa Howie (left) with Chris on Draft Day

However, my research on the topic led me the Matthews family and, while I knew a little bit about their multi-generational history in the NFL, I hadn’t realized the full extent of their pigskin pedigree.  So, I decided to focus this (belated) Father’s Day post on the Matthews’ family tree.

By the way, if you enjoyed my series last week on the legal issues raised when players are faced with paternity suits, you should check out yesterday's post on "2 or 3 lines (and so much more)," authored by my good friend and fellow blogger, Gary Hailey.  Click here to go to his post, based on Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," in which he elaborates on the Antonio Cromartie baby mama drama. 


It all started with the family’s patriarch, Clay Matthews, Sr., an offensive tackle.  Clay Senior attended Georgia Tech and was drafted by the (then) Los Angeles Rams in 1949.  He didn’t make his NFL debut until 1950, however, and it was with the San Francisco 49ers.  Like many players of his generation, Clay’s playing career was interrupted by war—in this case, the Korean War.  He served for three years as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, returning to San Francisco in 1953, then retiring in 1955.


Clay Matthew, Jr. was a star linebacker at the University of Southern California before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1978 draft.  Junior enjoyed a 16-year career in Cleveland, earning Pro Bowl selections four times and three All-Pro selections; he finished out his career with three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.  A model for longevity, Clay Matthews, Jr. has the distinction of being the oldest player to record a sack, which he last did at the age of 40 years and 282 days!

Junior (right) and Bruce in the '80s

Clay Jr.’s brother, Bruce, is the only Matthews in the Hall of Fame—so far.  He must have gotten some good genes, too, because he also enjoyed a 19-year professional career, as an offensive lineman (which, incidentally, means that he and Clay, Jr. would have been on the field at the same time when they played against each other).  Like his brother, he attended USC and was a first round draft pick when he was selected by the Houston Oilers.  He stayed with the Oilers (later the Tennessee Titans) throughout his entire career, and was named to the Pro Bowl an incredible fourteen times—which ties him with former defensive tackle (and Little House on the Prairie actor) Merlin Olsen for most selections.  During his career, Bruce earned many awards, including NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2000 and the Bar Starr Man of the Year Award that same year.  He also holds the record for most games played by an offensive lineman, at 296.  Bruce Matthews was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and is now the offensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans.


Let’s start with the offspring of Clay Matthews Junior:

Clay Matthews III is a star linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.  He followed in the cleat marks of his father and uncle at USC and was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Packers.  In his short career, he has already piled up impressive numbers and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in all three seasons.  He has also already accomplished what his predecessors did not:  a Super Bowl title.

Casey Matthews broke with tradition and attended the University of Oregon, where he played linebacker.  The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, so he just finished his rookie season; he started the first two games and was benched after his third, but got back in against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14.*

Now for Bruce’s progeny:

Bruce has begotten three football-playing sons, each currently at a different level.  Kevin, a center, played college football at Texas A&M and was signed by the Tennessee Titans, his father’s team, as an undrafted free agent in 2010.  At first, Kevin was just a member of the team’s practice squad; he was promoted to the active roster in December of his rookie year.  Younger brother Jake is an offensive lineman at Texas A&M; baby bro Mike is another offensive lineman, still in high school, but will round out the brotherly triad at A&M, having already committed to playing there after he graduates.

Kevin and dad, Bruce Matthews

So, there you have it—the most prolific football family in the NFL.  Three generations and counting!

Happy (belated) Father’s Day, guys!

*A third brother, Kyle, played safety at USC, but his football career didn’t continue after college.

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