Clay Matthews Sr., who started a lineage of players in the NFL stretching back to his playing days in the 1950s, died Thursday in Mount Pleasant, S.C.,at the age of 88.
Matthews — patriarch of what has been called "the first family of the NFL" —was the father of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and former Pro Bowler Clay Matthews Jr., as well as the grandfather of three current players, including Packers linebacker Clay Matthews III.
After getting drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 25th round of the 1949 NFL Draft, Matthews did not play until 1950, when he signed with the 49ers.
He played four seasons as a 6-3, 219-pound defensive lineman. His playing career may have been longer, but it was interrupted afterthe 1950 season when he served in the Korean Waras a paratrooper for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Matthews, who was born in Charleston, S.C.,played college football at Georgia Tech andwas the son of a pretty good athlete. His father, H.L. Matthews, played minor league baseball until serving in World War I andlater coached boxing, baseball and track and field at The Citadel.
As a father himself, Matthews instilled the same type of athletic work ethic and discipline he inherited from his father, the coach. and with it,Clay Jr. and Bruce flourished on the gridiron.
“It was, ‘Go out there and play, give it your best shot,’” Bruce Matthews told the New York Times in 2011. “That was his main thing: Once you start something, you don’t quit it. He goes, ‘If you ever go out there and half-step or give it less than your best effort, I’ll come and yank you out.’”
Clay Matthews Jr. was a four-time Pro Bowl playerduring a 19-year NFL career, most of which the linebacker spent with the Cleveland Browns. Bruce Matthews spent his entire 19-year career with the Tennessee Titans franchise. He was a first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in the 1983 NFL Draft and the former USC offensive tackle was selected to 14 Pro Bowls.
Clay Matthews III followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle by playing college football at USC before the Packers selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft. Clay III has since been selected to six Pro Bowls and is the only member of the family to play for aSuper Bowl winner, helping the Packers claim a championship in 2010.
Clay’s brother, Casey, was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2011 and was with the Vikings in 2015. Another Clay Jr. son, Kyle, was a letter-winner as a safety on USC’s 2003 national championship team.
Bruce Matthews and his wife, Carrie, had seven children, most notably Jake, who was a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2014 and immediately was tabbed as the starter at left tackle. One of Bruce’s other sons, Kevin, spent time with the Titans, Redskins and Panthers from 2010-2014. Mike Matthews was a standout at Texas A&M, where Jake and Kevin played, before signing with the Browns after the 2016 draft.
After his football career, Clay Matthews Sr.became a successful businessman and eventuallysettled in his nativeSouth Carolina in hislater years.
After his first wife, Daisy, passed away, he remarried in 1982. Carolyn Matthews said that even as her husband gradually lost his memory, possibly from his years of football, he kept hiswit. When she asked him in 2007 when he first started to exhibit memory issues, he quipped, “When I was about 20.”
Clay Sr.'syounger brother, Dale, who played football at The Citadel, died from complications ofAlzheimer’s disease at the age of 72.