While defense may win championships, offensive players tend to grab the headlines. Some defensive stars, however, can break that trend and make a name for themself as a legitimate gamechanger. During his time with the Green Bay Packers, linebacker Clay Matthews was one of those men.
Despite his success in Wisconsin, Clay Matthews has dropped off in recent years; he left Green Bay in 2019 and is currently out of a job. What happened to the Pro Bowler?
Clay Matthews’ unconventional road to the NFL
As a member of the Matthews football family, Clay Matthews seemed destined to find a home on the gridiron. His path to the pros, however, was anything but conventional.
When he headed to high school, Matthews was so small that his father, the team’s defensive coordinator, barely played him. The teenager wouldn’t be deterred, though, and bulked up; he eventually filled out, but he matured too late to garner any attention from major colleges.
While Matthews wasn’t recruited by USC, he was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and suit up for the Trojans. He walked onto the team, but didn’t crack the lineup during his first year on campus; the following season, he appeared in eight games and recorded four tackles, primarily on special teams.
Clay, however, still didn’t quit. Despite earning a scholarship in 2006, he didn’t see a massive increase in playing time; as a junior, he was little more than a backup. During his final season on campus, however, everything changed. The coaching staff finally found a way to accommodate Matthews’ unique skill set and he rewarded their efforts with 4.5 sacks and 57 total tackles.
Becoming a star with the Green Bay Packers
While Clay Matthews didn’t burst onto the college football scene until his senior season, the Green Bay Packers must have liked what they saw. When the 2009 NFL draft rolled around, they selected the linebacker with the 26th overall pick.
This time, Matthews wouldn’t get off to a slow start. During his first professional season, he piled up 51 total tackles and 10 sacks; when the season ended, he headed to the Pro Bowl and claimed the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year. His 2011 campaign, however, would be even better.
That season, the Packers won the Super Bowl; on a personal level, Matthews posted 60 total tackles and 13.5 sacks, taking home the Butkus Award. He had officially become a star.
Matthews spent the next eight seasons with the Packers, moving around the field as needed. While the unit struggled at times, Clay himself was a consistent force; by the time he left Wisconsin, he was the franchise’s all-time sack leader, getting to the quarterback 83.5 timess and piling up 482 total tackles.
What happened to Clay Matthews?
After the 2018 NFL season wrapped up, Clay Matthews hit free agency. Despite his service, the Packers weren’t interested in inking the defensive end to a new contract.
Matthews signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams worth just over $9 million. He suited up for 13 games during the 2019 season, recording eight sacks and 37 total tackles. That wasn’t enough to keep him on the roster, though; the Rams cut the linebacker in an attempt to save salary.
While being cut might seem like an ignominious end, Matthew’s isn’t down and out. Plenty of teams would jump at the chance to sign a linebacker capable of pressuring the quarterback with relative ease; there’s been speculation that he could return to Green Bay, head to Seattle to reunite with Pete Carroll, or follow in his father’s footsteps and sign with the Cleveland Browns.
At this point, there isn’t much certainty in the world of pro sports; it’s safe to assume, however, that we haven’t heard the last of Clay Matthews.