Super Bowl XLV: 10 Reasons Why the Steelers Are Not Ready for Clay Matthews
Despite his early success in the NFL, Clay Matthews is still only a second-year player.
How is a linebacker who only made the starting lineup one season in college, now the defensive leader on an NFL Super Bowl team? What brought him to this point?
Matthews' road to this point isn't the cliche' road taken by many of his professional teammates. There were a few bumps along the way, and obstacles thrown in front of him. All that helped to shape an immensely driven individual who has climbed his way to stardom.
Here are 10 things that have helped him to this point in his career: Super Bowl XLV.
10. Underappreciated High School Linebacker
An athlete’s entire career is dependent on how it starts. Case in point: Clay Matthews.
Throughout his high-school football days at Agoura high school in Agoura Hills, Calif., Matthews was an undersized linebacker. He didn't earn the starting position from his coach (his father) until his senior year thanks to his late growth spurt.
Look at any other defensive monster in the NFL today. Let's say, Julius Peppers.
Look at how Peppers entered the league. A second overall draft pick out of North Carolina, where he broke records left and right demanding attention from a large percentage of the NFL.
Then there's Matthews, I wouldn't take it too far to say that he is an immature player, but we are just spectators as he begins to scratch the surface of his athletic potential.
Adversity makes athletes.
If anything, Matthews took this route as a chip on his shoulder for the rest of his career. If this isn't a great start for an ESPN 30 for 30, I have no idea what is.
9. Undersized College Recruit
Matthews only had offers from Division-I FCS schools and local community colleges. However, like his father and uncle, Matthews decided to attend Southern Cal with intentions of walking on.
Point to remember: Matthews had no Division-I BCS football offers.
8. Southern Cal Experience
Deciding to attend Southern Cal was one of the best decisions Clay Matthews has ever made.
One reason on his decision to play for Southern Cal was the family history at the university. On top of being the second of his brothers to play at Southern Cal, his father, Clay Matthews Jr., and uncle Bruce Matthews also played for the Trojans.
The other reason was Pete Carroll.
During Pete Carroll’s 2004 national championship season, instead of playing in fourth quarter garbage time, Matthews decided to maintain his red-shirt status securing his all-important later year of eligibility where he would secure his invitation to the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine.
7. The Media
Nothing could be better for a NFL hopeful than to have their face on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
6. Green Bay Packers Draft Pick
Many might think that a football player like Clay Matthews would have done great anywhere he was drafted. While this may be true, it certainly didn't hurt that he was chosen by Green Bay.
Every rookie needs some guidance, and if anybody can take an athlete and bring them up to shape for the NFL its Dom Capers of the Green Bay Packers.
I don't hesitate to give Capers a lot of credit when it comes to Clay Matthews' success.
In 2009, Matthews' rookie season was also Capers' first year with the Packers, with Capers came a 3-4 defense replacing Green Bays usual 4-3. He was the architect of the Steelers 3-4 defense in the early '90s that saw Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd become household names.
Capers found every way possible to use Matthews' talent on the field, giving him more starts in his first NFL season than all but one season he ever played in.
5. MMA Training
Apparently, professional football practices are not enough for Clay Matthews.
Matthews has been training at MMA Athletics, a program started by UFC legend Randy Couture and martial arts specialist Jay Glazer.
Why train at a martial arts gym? Watch the video above to see just how influential training with Glazer has been.
4. The Hair
The most apparent thing about Matthews has got to be the hair.
Is hair a superstitious sign of defensive ability? Jared Allen once rocked the mullet, but ever since he shaved it off, the Vikings' success has declined. And defenses with the likes of Matthews and Troy Polamalu in the Super Bowl?
Looks like it just might add up to me.
If you want to stand out in this league, you have to make a statement, and if his athleticism isn’t loud enough for you, the hair should be.
3. Speed and Agility
One of the most essential aspects to football is one's pure athletic ability. It comes with dedication in the weight room, on the practice field and in the daily lives of every athlete.
Clay Matthews showed to the SportsNation that NFL team practices were not enough to satisfy him, by beginning the training program discussed earlier at MMA Athletics.
Going beyond the call in order to get the extra edge on the competition is necessary in order to be successful, and Matthews is just beginning his stride in this league.
This slide, along with the previous one, may seem to be obvious attributes to a great player, but potential varies from athlete to athlete. Working out 24/7 and staying fit is one thing, but for some, the peak of athletic ability has been reached. Some reaching this ceiling even before entering the NFL.
This is not the case with Clay Matthews.
What drives every successful individual is hunger. It is what strives us to better ourselves in different aspects of our lives.
For football players even more so.
Over the years, the NFL has proved to be a dog eat dog business. If you don't live up to expectations, you're out. The game is constantly changing and successful players must be on top of their game at any given point in time.
This takes dedication.
For those that are serious about the sport, being an NFL player is more than a recreational way of life with a paycheck. It is a vein of blood in the body that keeps the internal drive of one's soul going strong.
Not impressed with the No. 1 reason?
Allow me to elaborate.
One thing that you simply can't teach to a football player is awareness, and there are a select few players in this business that have it like Clay Matthews.
At Southern Cal, recognizing Matthews unique ability to read the offense, head coach Pete Carroll created a Hybrid position for Matthews. In the "Elephant" position, Matthews would stand in the position of a defensive end, but use the speed and tactics of a linebacker. Much like a linebacker crowding the line with a 3-4 defense.
In the NFL, there is more freedom for Matthews, with trust from his coaches on the sidelines, if Matthews sees something he likes he moves out of position and is ready to pounce.
In this game, every fraction of every second counts for something. Decisions while watching a developing play, and knowing when to drop back into coverage or take a strike at the backfield needs to be processed as fast as possible. Again, not teachable.
When you add those abilities to the speed and agility of Matthews at 6'3", 255, you have a lethal combination that is ready to attack whatever is pointing his direction.