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Clay Matthews III looks to sack Cutler, Bears

January 21, 2011
By BRENT SOBLESKI

Sweat is already beading on the forehead of Chicago Bears' offensive lineman J'Marcus Webb. He may even be having nightmares of a long-haired wildman relentlessly attacking him during his restless slumber.

The 6-foot-8 335-pound man-mountain at right tackle will be rocking in his stance trying to gain extra momentum when the ball is snapped Sunday as the rookie has the unenviable task of trying to block the unblockable.

Clay Matthews III, one of the NFL's leading sack artists, will be lined up directly across the line of scrimmage from Webb during the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. Matthews may be outweighed by 80 pounds while attacking Webb, but the outside linebacker is clearly the favorite to win each individual battle this weekend.

In two years, the third generation professional football star has accumulated 23 quarterback sacks in the regular season. He has already notched three in this year's postseason.

As terrific as Matthews has played in a Packers uniform, the tradition he carries as well as the rocky road he has taken to stardom is even more amazing.

The Manning's may be considered NFL royalty, but the Matthews clan is the unrelenting proletariat coming at its oppressors in waves.

Clay is the third to carry the name in the NFL ranks.

His grandfather, Clay Sr., played four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before participating in the Korean War.

His father, Clay Jr., is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate after playing 19 seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.

And his brother, Casey, just started at middle linebacker for the Oregon Ducks in their national championship game loss while producing a key forced fumble against Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.

Immediate family aside, Clay's uncle Bruce is one of the NFL's greatest ironmen.

Clay Jr.'s 19 seasons somewhat pales in comparison to a man who made a living in the trenches and retired having played in more regular season games than any other previous player (excluding kickers).

Bruce's son, Kevin, has followed directly in his footsteps starting at center this year for the same Tennessee franchise from which his father retired. Bruce's next-in-line, Jake, was a highly sought-after recruit and a freshman starter at left tackle for Texas A&M.

The family's lineage in the NFL is staggering.

But one fateful day in April 2009, everything almost came crashing down around Clay as his name was potentially sullied and a high NFL draft grade was at stake.

After strong performance in the Senior Bowl, and then the ensuing NFL combine, a report circulated the youngest Clay had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

The report was quickly dismissed by combine and NFL officials, but it did cause an uproar considering Matthews' career at USC.

Questions were raised about his path into the league.

The youngest Clay walked on the USC program. He worked his way up the depth chart. His body matured, gaining approximately 70 pounds during his time in southern California. He finally became a starter for Pete Carroll's program as a senior.

It is a riveting story, and those who initiated the original allegations apologized and faded into oblivion. But what if they were right? I know personally of one instance where false reporting was labeled, only for it to be hushed up by the league.

The other man linked in the initial story was then-USC teammate Brian Cushing.

Matthews and Cushing were absolved on any wrong doing. Yet Cushing, the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was suspended for the first four games of 2010, for - you guessed it - testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Plus, Matthews has tripled his collegiate production as a pass rusher (4 career sacks) this year alone for Green Bay.

All of this still circumstantial evidence leaves one scratching his or her head, particularly in a country where sporting stars have continually been in denial and later proven wrong.

In an interview dated May 20 with ESPN360, Matthews stated, "I would never even touch a banned substance. I've never done drugs, never in my life.

"As you can see from my family, I think our history speaks for itself. We've got some talented people in my family in regards to football, and we do it the right way.

"I take that very serious, when people throw accusations my way, because I feel like I've done nothing but hard work. I've done everything I needed to do to put myself in this position. And if people want to try to bring me down,that's fine. But I'm going to keep being myself."

Let's hope so Clay. As someone who grew up a fan of your father, it's all anyone asks.

This is merely food for thought as all NFL fans enjoy watching a special talent get to the quarterback on championship Sunday.

He will be the one swooping past Webb with golden locks flowing in the wind, the Bears' Jay Cutler scrambles for his life and the Packers make a legitimate run at another Super Bowl appearance.

(Sobleski, a Cadiz resident, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at bsobleski@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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