Clay Matthews #52 OLB
Height: 6-3 Weight: 255 Age: 27
Born: 5/14/1986 Los Angeles , CA
Experience: 6th season
High School: Agoura HS [Agoura Hills, CA]
Selected By: Green Bay Packers
Pick (Overall): 26 (26)
With two family members having not only played, but excelled at Southern California, you would think that with a name like Clay Matthews III that he would have been one of the team's elite recruits. However, 160-pound high school players do not have Pete Carroll knocking on their door, no matter what his last name is. Still, after joining the team as a walk-on, putting in three years as a reserve and a special teams player, Matthews wrote a terrific final chapter to his college career that could end in April with him joining his father and uncle as USC first-round selections.
When the Matthews family gets together during the holidays, that gathering is filled with athletes. It all begins with Clay's grandfather, Clay Sr., who was on the football, wrestling and swimming teams at Georgia Tech in the 1940s and then played in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s. Clay's father, Clay Jr., was a four-year (1974-77) linebacker at USC who played on the Trojans' 1974 national championship team and earned All-American honors in 1977. He went on to play with the NFL's Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons from 1978-96.
Clay's uncle, Bruce, was a three-year (1980-82) letterman offensive guard at USC who earned All-American honors in 1982 and then played with the NFL's Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1983-2001. Clay's older brother, Kyle, lettered at safety on USC's 2003 national championship team. Another brother, Casey, is a sophomore linebacker at Oregon. His cousin, Ashley Nick, is a senior on the USC women's soccer team that captured the 2007 NCAA championship.
Matthews prepped at Agoura High School. His dramatic rise as a pro prospect would be one of this draft's more compelling stories, even without his bloodlines. Lightly recruited as a high school junior, he walked on to USC rather than take a scholarship to a smaller program. "He was 160 pounds as a junior in high school," his father, Clay Jr., said. "His senior year, he just got taller and bigger. But you're recruited your junior year. I was thinking he wasn't going to be able to play football, and I was fine with that."
The freshman linebacker was relegated to duties on the scout team at Southern California in 2004. As a red-shirt freshman, he played mostly on special teams in 2005, seeing action in all but the Hawaii contest (missed that game with an elbow sprain). He managed to record eight tackles (4 solos) to earn his first varsity letter.
Now measuring in at 230 pounds, Matthews earned a scholarship during 2006 fall camp. He served as a reserve strong-side outside linebacker behind Dallas Sartz, but made his reputation when he was named Co-Special Teams Player of the Year. He was also a second-team Academic All-Pac 10 Conference pick. In 13 games, he delivered 15 tackles (9 solos) with a 7-yard sack.
Matthews was again the key backup at both outside linebacker positions and captured the team's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season in 2007. He played in all 13 games, blocking two kicks while posting 17 tackles (15 solos) with three stops for loss. He also caused two fumbles, both coming vs. Illinois in the Rose Bowl.
An intense weight training program during the 2008 offseason was tempered by surgery performed on his hand, but he still ended up receiving Co-Lifter of the Year honors. The now 240-pounder opened the 2008 campaign as a reserve, but took over right defensive end duties for the final 10 contests. The All-American honorable mention and All-Pac 10 Conference second-team choice was named the team's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. He ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles (28 solos), blocked another kick and had 4.5 sacks to go with nine stops for losses.