Clay Matthews III

Clay Matthews III

refer to caption

Matthews in 2011
No. 52Green Bay Packers
Position: Outside linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1986-05-14) May 14, 1986
Place of birth: Los Angeles, California
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school: Agoura (CA)
College: USC
NFL Draft: 2009 / Round: 1 / Pick: 26
Career history
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 12, 2016
Total tackles: 390
Sacks: 71.5
Pass deflections: 35
Interceptions: 6
Forced fumbles: 12
Total touchdowns: 3
Player stats at

William Clay Matthews III (born May 14, 1986) is an American football outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). After attending Agoura High School in Agoura Hills, California, Matthews was a walk-on student athlete at the University of Southern California for the USC Trojans football team under head coach Pete Carroll. At USC, Matthews was a standout special teams player, winning three consecutive Special Teams Player of the Year awards from 2006 to 2008; he also played reserve outside linebacker. In these roles he was part of three Pac-10 Championship teams.

Matthews was considered a top prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft. He was ultimately selected by the Packers in the first round of the Draft (26th overall) after the team traded up to make the selection. In his rookie year, Matthews recorded 10 sacks while playing outside linebacker. He topped that total in 2010 with 13.5 sacks, helping the Packers to their Super Bowl XLV victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Matthews continued his role as a leading pass rusher, recording at least 6 sacks in every season he has played. He also has showed his athleticism and abilities by playing both inside and outside linebacker during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Early life

Matthews was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Leslie and Clay Matthews, Jr., a professional football player. The family has a history of professional football players. Clay's grandfather is Clay Matthews, Sr.. His brother is linebacker Casey Matthews, and his uncle is Bruce Matthews. Both brothers were All-Americans. He also has cousins involved in football: Kevin Matthews, Jake Matthews, and Mike Matthews

The Matthews football dynasty family tree:

High school athletic career

Matthews attended Agoura High School in Agoura Hills, California, where he played for the Agoura Chargers high school football team. Physically, Matthews was a late bloomer. His father was the team's defensive coordinator, but declined to start his son because he was physically undersized. Matthews began developing physically in his senior season, but only garnered interest from Division I FCS schools and local community colleges.[1] He has described his own recruiting status out of high school as "not applicable."[2] Like his father and uncle, Matthews opted to attend the University of Southern California with hopes of becoming a walk-on for the Trojans football team.

College athletic career

A college-age picture of Clay Matthews III, standing in a crowd of USC fans.

Matthews attended the University of Southern California and played for the Trojans from 2004 to 2008 under head coach Pete Carroll. Even though he was the son of an All-Pro NFL linebacker, he entered USC as an unheralded, walk-on student athlete. During his first season, USC's 2004 BCS National Championship, he played only on the scout team and turned down several playing opportunities during garbage time during the fourth quarters of games in order to preserve his redshirt status and remaining seasons of NCAA eligibility. He remained a non-athletic scholarship (a "walk on"), reserve linebacker during the 2005 season, and played mainly on special teams. He was granted full athletic scholarship status at the beginning of the 2006 season. Matthews continued to play reserve linebacker in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and made two starts in 2007 in place of injured teammate Brian Cushing.[1] He was awarded USC's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007 and blocked two field goals in the latter season.[3]

During the off-season, Matthews committed to weight training and conditioning programs to gain size and improve his performance level and stamina. At the beginning of the 2008 season, defensive coordinator Nick Holt, Carroll and Norton decided to try using Matthews in a hybrid "Elephant" position, where Matthews would stand in the position of defensive end, but use the speed and tactics of a linebacker; the coaches had used Cushing in the position in a similar manner in 2006.[1] The experiment was successful, as Matthews recorded 4.5 sacks while playing alongside his other NFL-bound teammates Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava. Furthermore, Matthews continued his spectacular special teams play and was awarded USC's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year in 2008, making him the only player in USC history to be awarded three consecutive Special Teams Player of the Year awards. Matthews was a participant in the 2009 Senior Bowl and was considered a top prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft.[4]

Matthews was one of twelve senior USC football players, including the four linebackers Cushing, Maiava, Matthews and Maualuga, attending the by-invitation-only 2009 NFL Scouting Combine.[5] Matthews, alongside fellow USC linebackers Maualuga and Cushing, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2009 NFL Draft Preview magazine, as all three were regarded as potential first-round selections.[6]

Professional athletic career

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BPWonderlic
6 ft 3⅛ in 243 lb 4.59 s 1.49 s 2.68 s 4.18 s 6.90 s 37 in 10 ft 1 in 28 reps26
All values from NFL Combine except 40-yard dash (and splits) from USC Pro Day

On August 7, 2008, the Green Bay Packers traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets for what would become the Jets' 3rd-round draft pick (83rd overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft.

On draft day, April 25, 2009, the Packers traded their 2nd-round pick (41st overall, Darius Butler), their 3rd-round pick (73rd overall, Derek Cox, Jacksonville Jaguars) and the 83rd overall pick acquired for Favre (Brandon Tate) to the New England Patriots for a 1st-round pick (26th overall) and a 5th-round pick (162nd overall, Jamon Meredith) in that year's draft.

The Packers used the first-round pick obtained from the Patriots to acquire Matthews with the 26th overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Kevin Greene, the former All-Pro linebacker who is third on the all-time sack list with 160 (most ever by a linebacker), was hired by Dom Capers in 2009 to coach the outside linebacker position. He saw a lot of himself in Matthews but feared the Packers would not be able to draft him. Analysts were shocked when the Packers traded their 2nd- and two 3rd-round draft picks to the New England Patriots in order to secure Matthews and the 5th-round selection.[7] Analysts did not believe Matthews to be a first-round draft prospect due to his limited playing experience at USC (only starting the final ten games of his senior season.) Greene later stated that Matthews has a "set of skills that I have not seen in an outside linebacker. Clay has a set of skills that I didn't have. He has another gear I didn't have. He's better than Kevin Greene was."[8]

A picture of Clay Matthews III on the filed in uniform adjusting his chin strap.
Matthews on the field for the Packers in August 2011

2009 season

Matthews scored his first career touchdown during a Monday Night Football game on October 5, 2009 against the Minnesota Vikings; Matthews stripped the ball from running back Adrian Peterson and ran the ball back for a score.[9][10]

In week 17 against the Detroit Lions, he made 3 tackles, assisted on 2 more and sacked Daunte Culpepper twice. He was nominated for and won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award for his performance.[11]

In week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys, Matthews had another outstanding game: recording 1 tackle, recovering 2 fumbles forced by cornerback Charles Woodson, and sacking Dallas quarterback Tony Romo to make him a nominee again for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week. For the second time in as many nominations, he was voted Rookie of the Week for week 10.[11]

Matthews had arguably the best game in his young career in week 13 when he was awarded the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award. Matthews had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Packers' 27–14 win over Baltimore.[12]

In the Packers' December 13, 2009 contest vs the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, Matthews recorded his eighth sack of the season which put him into a three-way tie with former Packers Tim Harris and Vonnie Holiday for the team record of most sacks in a rookie season (1982–present).[13] The following week Matthews recorded two more sacks vs the Pittsburgh Steelers to claim the rookie record.[14][15]

He was added to the 2009 NFC Pro Bowl squad, replacing Bears LB Lance Briggs. He was the first Packers' rookie to earn a Pro Bowl selection since receiver James Lofton in 1978.

Matthews recorded 51 tackles, 10.0 sacks, 7 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in his rookie season. He played in all 16 games, starting at ROLB in 13 of them. He led the Packers in QB Pressures, with 45.5. He finished third for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, losing to his former USC teammate Brian Cushing. He was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and set the Packer record for most sacks in a season by rookie, with 10.0.

A photo of Clay Matthews III in uniform on the field waiting for the play to begin.
Matthews during the January 15, 2012 game against the New York Giants.

2010 season

Matthews took a different approach to the game in the 2010 season. After seeing him double-teamed and constantly chipped by running backs in the NFC wild card game against the Arizona Cardinals, Dom Capers decided to move him around the field. Matthews eventually ended up playing mostly at LOLB, but he would roam around the field, playing also at the ROLB position and sometimes in the middle. He finished the season with 60 tackles, 13.5 sacks (fourth in the league), 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception through 15 games in 2010. He became the first Packer to record 6 sacks in the first two games of the season and had 8.5 sacks in the first five weeks but slowed down the latter part of the season (5 sacks in the last 10 games due to a stress fracture in his lower leg.) Matthews was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl NFC roster for the second straight year and was named to the All-Pro team for the first time in his career. Matthews was awarded with the NFL's defensive player of the month award for September after recording 6 sacks in the first two weeks of the 2010 season. Matthews recorded a career high 55.0 QB Pressures. He was named SN-NFL Defensive Player of the Year, NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Butkus Award. He finished a close second (17 votes to 15) to Troy Polamalu in the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, notable in that both led their defenses to Super Bowl XLV.

He set the Packers' record for most sacks in a single postseason with 3.5. In the Super Bowl, won by the Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he recorded 3 tackles, a pass deflection, and a game changing forced fumble. On the first play of the 4th quarter with the Steelers driving to take the lead with the score 21-17 in favor of Green Bay and the ball on the Packer 33 yard line, he tackled Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who fumbled the ball, recovered by Desmond Bishop. The Packers never lost the lead, winning their 4th Super Bowl title and first since Super Bowl XXXI, 31-25.

2011 season

Matthews finished the 2011 season with 50 tackles, and a career low 6.0 sacks despite playing 15 of the 16 games. He led the Packers in quarterback pressures for the third straight season, with 53.5. Although some of his numbers plummeted from the previous season, he improved in other aspects of his game. He recorded a career high 3 interceptions, 9 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. He also recorded his third career defensive touchdown by picking off Eli Manning for a pick-six. Matthews played almost exclusively at the LOLB position, not roaming around the field like he did the previous season due to the struggling defense. Matthews did not play a single snap at the ROLB position until week eleven and finished the entire season with only seven rushes from the ROLB spot. Matthews claimed he had his best overall season despite the low numbers. The Packers struggled to find pass pressure from the side opposite of Matthews and the loss of defensive end Cullen Jenkins due to free agency and safety Nick Collins due to a career ending neck injury, placed the Packers last in total defense despite leading the league in interceptions, with 31. Linebacker coach Kevin Greene stated that he has never seen a pass rusher get double teamed as much as Clay had that season. The defensive line struggled, finishing the season with 6 total sacks after recording 18 the year before. Matthews was named to his third straight Pro Bowl as a starter. Prior to the 2011 season, Matthews was named the second best pass rusher (2nd only to DeMarcus Ware) and the fourth best linebacker in the league by ESPN (behind Patrick Willis, James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware).

2012 season

Heading into the 2012 season, the defense needed to improve. Finishing with the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL was described by Matthews as "unacceptable." The Packers drafted six straight defensive players in the draft, including Matthews' former teammate, Nick Perry, out of USC. Because of Perry's larger size (10 pounds heavier) and not being accustomed to playing pass coverage was put at the LOLB position, moving Clay Matthews back to the ROLB position he played at in his rookie year. The Packers hoped that by drafting Perry, as well as Michigan State DE Jerel Worthy and Iowa DE Mike Daniels, opposing teams would no longer be able to consistently double-team Matthews, allowing pressure to open up on all sides.

A picture of Clay Matthews in uniform on the field with his hands in the area, presumably to pump up the home team crowd.
Matthews playing against the New York Giants in 2012.

Prior to the 2012 NFL season, Sporting News ranked Matthews as the second best outside linebacker in the league, only behind Cowboy's star DeMarcus Ware. Matthews started out the season with a bang. He recorded 2.5 sacks in the 30-22 season opener loss to the eventual NFC champion 49ers and then posted a career high 3.5 sacks against the Bears on Thursday night. Matthews became one of only six players in NFL history to record six or more sacks in the first two games of the season, and is the only player ever to do it twice. Entering week nine against the Cardinals, he was second in the league in sacks with nine. Matthews had to leave the game in the second half after his left hamstring started to tighten up. He was eventually ruled out for weeks eleven through thirteen. After missing four straight games with the hamstring injury, Matthews recorded 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and a pass deflection in a 21–13 victory over the Bears. This victory crowned the Packers as NFC North champions for the second year in a row. Matthews totaled 3 tackles and a sack in a 37–34 season ending loss to the Vikings. He finished the season with 43 tackles, 13.0 sacks (5th in the league), 2 passes defended, and a forced fumble. Matthews was selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl, but dropped out due to injury and was named to the All-Pro team for the second time.

In the offseason, Matthews became the highest paid linebacker in NFL history when he and the Packers made a deal worth $66 million over the next five seasons.

2013 season

Playing in only 11 games during the 2013 season, Matthews recorded 41 tackles (26 solo), a team-high 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. During the Packers' Week 5 match-up with the Detroit Lions on October 6, 2013, Matthews broke his right thumb and would miss the next 4 games of the season. On November 10, in a game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, he returned to the playing field, donning a large "club" cast over his entire right hand. Without the ability to use his fingers to grab or apply pressure or leverage, Matthews was left to be fairly ineffective during this game.[16] The following week, he returned to the field with a less constrictive device that allowed his fingers to remain free. The less restrictive device seemed to improve his performance the following week. After completing only two tackles (one solo) with no sacks, stuffs, hits or hurries on the quarterback against the Eagles, in the Packers' Week 11 match-up against the New York Giants the following week, Matthews had 4 tackles, including a sack and stuff with the less constrictive device.[17] After the Giants game, Matthews would go on to accumulate 4.5 more sacks and 17 tackles (10 solo) over the next 5 weeks. In Week 16, during the second to last game of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Matthews re-fractured his thumb and did not play another down the rest of the season.

2014 season

Prior to the 2014 season, the Packers signed veteran free-agent Julius Peppers to bring an additional pass rush to help Matthews. After a Week 8 loss to the New Orleans Saints, where the Packers defense gave up almost 500 yards of offense, including 172 yards rushing from Mark Ingram, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy decided to alter Matthews' position, alternating him between outside linebacker and middle linebacker during games, depending on the play call. The move paid huge dividends for both Matthews and the Packers defense, as the defense improved drastically over the final 8 games of the season. After spending the first half of the season ranked near the bottom in the league in defense, the Packers finished the season ranked a respectable 14th in the NFL in total defense. Matthews' sack numbers also increased in the second half of the season. After only getting 2.5 sacks in the first 8 games, Matthews had 8.5 sacks in the final 8 games, including back-to-back two-sack games against Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Matthews finished the season with 11 sacks, 9 passes defended, 1 interception (his first since 2011) and two forced fumbles. For the first time in his NFL career, Matthews started every game during the regular season.

2015 season

Matthews entering Lambeau Field before a game in October 2015

Matthews helped lead his team to the NFC division playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, a game that it lost 26–20 in overtime. Matthews made comments that the Packers should have touched the ball in overtime and "go to college rules".[18]

Matthews was among the athletes indicated in The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers, an Al Jazeera documentary on illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PED) use.[19] (In August 2016, after an investigation, the NFL cleared Matthews and two other of its players of wrongdoing, citing "no credible evidence."[20])

Every Friday during the football season, Matthews talks football on Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure on Newsradio 620 WTMJ.



Regular season

Season Team Games Tackles
GP GS Total Solo Ast Sck Int
2009 Green Bay Packers 16 13 50 36 14 10.0 0
2010 Green Bay Packers 15 15 59 54 5 13.5 1
2011 Green Bay Packers 15 15 55 41 14 6.0 3
2012 Green Bay Packers 12 12 43 32 11 13.0 0
2013 Green Bay Packers 11 11 40 26 14 7.5 0
2014 Green Bay Packers 16 16 71 52 19 11.0 1
2015 Green Bay Packers 16 16 66 49 17 6.5 1
Total 101 98 384 290 94 67.5 6


Season Team Games Tackles
GP GS Total Solo Ast Sck Int
2009 Green Bay Packers 1 1 5 3 2 1.0 0
2010 Green Bay Packers 4 4 16 14 2 3.5 0
2011 Green Bay Packers 1 1 5 4 1 0 0
2012 Green Bay Packers 2 2 9 7 2 3.0 0
2014 Green Bay Packers 2 2 10 7 3 1.0 0
2015 Green Bay Packers 2 2 10 7 3 1.5 0
Total 12 12 55 42 13 10.0 0

Personal life

In 2012, Matthews agreed to model and test a Depend adult incontinence brief under his uniform to benefit the Jimmy V Foundation charity.[22]

Non-sports media appearances

Matthews made an appearance on the February 9, 2011 of WWE Smackdown,[23] when he ran down to the ring to assist in Edge's World Heavyweight Championship match against Dolph Ziggler as a backup referee, as Vickie Guerrero was the original special referee for that match. Guerrero injured her ankle (kayfabe) after trying to spear Edge, and he won the match and the championship after spearing Ziggler twice, while she was being attended to at ringside for her injury. Shortly after the second spear, Matthews ran down to the ring to make the three-count and give Edge the win.[24] This episode took place in Green Bay, the same week the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl XLV after WWE invited the winning team to the show that is taking place in their hometown.[25]


  1. 1 2 3 Klein, Gary (September 23, 2008), "Clay's feat: walk on, hold off, move up", Los Angeles Times, retrieved July 12, 2016
  2. "Power Rankings: Top 10 NFL linebackers". espn. November 2, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  3. McKinney, Erik (May 4, 2008). "A Spot for Clay". Archived from the original on April 30, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  4. Breer, Albert (January 21, 2009). "USC just might be the true location of Linebacker U". Sporting News. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  5. Miller, Ted (February 2, 2009). "Pac-10 NFL combine invitees". Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  6. Klein, Gary (April 21, 2009). "USC's Maualuga, Kushing and Matthews grace Sports Illustrated cover". Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  7. Prisco, Pete (April 26, 2009). "Prisco's Live Draft Analysis". Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  8. Wilde, Jason. "'He's going to be a great one'". Green Bay, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on November 13, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  9. "NFL Game Center: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings - 2009 Week 4". Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  10. Borzi, Pat (October 6, 2009). "Finally Facing the Packers, Favre Delivers a Gem". The New York Times.
  11. 1 2 "Matthews named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week". November 20, 2009. Archived from the original on December 3, 2009.
  12. "LB Clay Matthews Named NFC Defensive Player Of Week 13". December 9, 2009. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  13. "Packers Record Book". Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  14. "Packers vs Steelers Gamecenter". Archived from the original on April 9, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  15. "2009 Gamelogs". Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  16. Spofford, Mike (November 14, 2013). "Clay Matthews is done with the club". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  17. "Clay Matthews Game-by-Game Stats". ESPN. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  18. Pelissero, Tom (January 17, 2016). "Clay Matthews says NFL should 'go to college rules' after Packers don't touch ball in OT". USA Today. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  19. "Al Jazeera Investigates - The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers". YouTube. Al Jazeera. December 26, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  20. Pelissero, Tom (August 31, 2016). "NFL clears James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers in PED probe". USA Today. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  21. "Clay Matthews".
  22. Sorgi, Jay (March 29, 2012). "Packers LB Matthews to wear a Depend undergarment in ad". WTMJ-620. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  23. "Clay Matthews - next WWE Superstar?". Green Bay, Wisconsin. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  24. Edge vs Dolph Ziggler (World Heavyweight Championship Match) 2/11/11 on YouTube. Retrieved September 10, 2013
  25. "Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TD passes as Packers drop Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV". Arlington, Texas: ESPN. February 7, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2014.

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