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'It is time': Clay Matthews excited to take his place in Packers Hall of Fame

Six-time Pro Bowl linebacker took pride in being able to do it all


GREEN BAY – Every now and then, Clay Matthews will still pull up the video that helped define his star-studded NFL career.

With Super Bowl XLV hanging in the balance, the (then) second-year linebacker was pulled aside by his position coach, the late Kevin Greene, and challenged to step up after the Packers' defense lost Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone.

After Greene passionately declared "It is time" to his pupil, Matthews promptly forced a fumble of Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The play kept momentum squarely in the Packers' favor, helping propel Green Bay to a 31-25 victory over the Steelers to earn the franchise's fourth Lombardi Trophy.

"To this day, when I watch that clip, I get goosebumps," Matthews said. "To win that game, to make a play like that on that stage – in hindsight, understand what a great moment that was and will be, it really puts it all in perspective."

That 2010 season marked the beginning of Matthews' breakout and career that will be forever preserved in the Packers Hall of Fame after it was announced Monday that Matthews and former defensive end Aaron Kampman will be inducted in 2024.

A first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in 2009, Matthews stands atop the Packers' all-time sack list (since 1982) with 83½ career sacks. His 10 sacks in 2009 remain a franchise rookie record.

Matthews' first five seasons came under the tutelage of Greene, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who instilled fundamentals and discipline into the talented young pass rusher.

That relationship built the foundation for Matthews' six Pro Bowl appearances, tied with Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White as the most by a Packers defender.

"I think the further I get away from the game, the further I appreciate my career," Matthews said. "What I was able to accomplish, the people who I had played with, the locker room, everything that comes along with this great game and one of them being Kevin Greene and what he meant for my career, especially early on."

Matthews had the bloodlines for the sport, beginning with his grandfather, Clay Matthews Sr., who played four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1950s. Matthews' father, Clay Jr., played 19 seasons in the NFL and has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame several times.

His uncle, Bruce, is enshrined in Canton after starting 293 games over 18 seasons with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers. Bruce's son, Jake, has been the Atlanta Falcons' left tackle for nearly a decade.

While he never felt pressure to play football, Clay III believes he gravitated towards the game out of admiration for his namesake.

"My greatest role model is my father so growing up," Matthews said. "I wanted to be just like him whether it was playing football in the backyard, in the cul-de-sac.

"I wasn't thinking I need to create this legacy and I need to become somebody because of my name and who came before me, it just so happened to unfold that way."

Matthews went from a walk-on at USC to a top draft choice after Ted Thompson, the late Packers general manager, famously traded back into the first round in 2009 to take him.

Less than two years later, Matthews became the first Packers linebacker to be named first-team AP All-Pro in more than 20 years, finishing second to Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2010. He reached double-digit sacks in three of his first four seasons with Green Bay.

In 2014, Matthews showcased his versatility when former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers asked him to move to inside linebacker to help the run defense.

Admittedly leery about the switch at first, Matthews debuted with 11 tackles and a sack in a 55-14 win over the Chicago Bears. Green Bay was one of the NFL's top defenses in the second half of the year, buoying the Packers' run to the NFC title game.

Matthews earned back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 2014-15 while predominately playing inside. He still combined for 17½ sacks during those seasons.

"I always felt like I could do it all and I say that with humility," Matthews said. "I felt like I could play the run, I could rush the passer, I could guard tight ends/slot receivers. Whatever it is, I took a lot of pride in being able to do it all and not just being a one-trick pony."

Matthews finished his NFL career following an eight-sack season with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Today, Matthews jokes with friends and family that he's busier now in retirement than he was as a player.

A father of three, Matthews now lives just outside Nashville and spends most of his time helping his wife around the house, coaching his son in tee ball, and assisting with homework.

To be the next inductee into the Packers Hall of Fame is more than Matthews could've ever wished for.

"I couldn't be more honored," Matthews said. "You think of the history of the Packers and everybody who's been here before us, to now have our names be in the same breath as those players and coaches and management, it's truly special."

Former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2024. Take a look at photos from throughout his career.

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