There are only a handful of “football families” that contain more than one generation of high-quality players. The Manning family immediately comes to mind, but I think my vote for the most amazing football clan would be the Matthews family. Clay Matthews (II) (who was drafted by and played for the Cleveland Browns for 16 years) is the son of Clay Matthews Sr. and the father of Clay Matthews (III). Clay Sr. played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950’s, and Clay (III) is currently playing for the Green Bay Packers. Clay (II) even has a brother, Bruce Mathews, who played O-line and is in the Hall-of-Fame.
Family prestige aside, Clay Matthews (II) had quite a career of his own. He was a first-round draft pick of the Browns in 1978, taken #12 overall. Although he didn’t start his rookie year, his play as a backup showcased his impressive skills. In his second year, he was promoted to starting outside linebacker on the right side.
Matthews was the entire package at his position. He was a hard-hitting, no-miss tackler. He was a bulldog when it came to rushing the passer. Even his pass-protecting skills were superior. 1,561 career tackles are credited to Matthews, along with 16 interceptions. Unfortunately, quarterback sacks were not an official statistic and therefore not recorded during the first 5 seasons of his career, but starting with his 6th season in the NFL, Clay (II) recorded 69.5 sacks.
During the Browns’ run of 5-straight playoff appearances in the mid-to-late 1980’s, Matthews’ reputation boomed due to his contribution to those teams. He made four Pro Bowls during that span, and was named an All-Pro in 1984, 1988, and 1989. But even more impressive than his stats and accolades was his longevity.
Matthews played 16 seasons with Cleveland, with very few games taken off for injury. He was a stalwart of the Cleveland defense until the spring of 1994. At that time, the Browns (under head coach Bill Belichick) were dropping a lot of trusty fan-favorite players, and Matthews was no exception. He was released, and then signed with the Atlanta Falcons. There, he played another 3 seasons, going well into his 40th year. His name is in the record books as the oldest player in NFL history with a sack (40 years and 282 days). He finally retired with 19 years of high-quality NFL play under his belt.
They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.