The NFL's Iron Man
A Football Love Affair
"The biggest thing was, you never quit anything...Once you commit to doing something, you finish it"
- Bruce Matthews
Bruce Matthews was born on August 8th, 1961, the son of Clay Matthews Sr, who was in the NFL as a player in the 1950's. From the shores of Chicago, then to Los Angeles, Matthews was an immediate standout on the offensive and defensive line, along with highschool wrestling. It was in these early days that Bruce's father instilled a mantra in his son that he recalls to this day, "Once you commit to doing something, you finish it." The young Bruce Matthews did just that, singling out success in football as his primary goal alongside his studies.
This desire as well as his impressive performance throughout high school earned his a position on the offense line of the USC Trojans. Almost as a precursor of things to come, Bruce played all positions on the offensive line while in college, at one time or another.
Matthews earned All-America Honors his senior season at USC, and took home the Morris Trophy to boot, an award given annually to the best offensive or defensive lineman in the Pac-12.
The USC star offensive lineman shunned attention he received, a habit he took with him throughout his future, but it was slowly becoming impossible to ignore him, especially among NFL scouting circles. His titanic figure and relentless playing style was going to get him drafted, and high at that.
The NFL's Iron Man
"We played together on the offensive line for the Houston Oilers for more than a decade...His work ethic, his competitiveness, his passion for the game, were contagious. I know that he motivated me to become a better player. Many of his former teammates...would say the same. He raised the standard for all of us.""Competitiveness is the word that best described Bruce. His desire to be the best is unmatched. He wants to win at anything he does..."- Mike Munchak
"Bruce was kind of a laid back, quiet guy, but he was very very competitive. In the run and shoot offense, Bruce got the job done. Just a great athlete for a guy that huge."- Oilers QB, Warren Moon
"The thing that always impressed me, for a guy his size, was his feet...Very, very nimble feet. Never got knocked out of technique, always balanced, always square."- Warren Moon
"Bruce Matthews wasn't only agile, he was dependable."- Steve Sabol
"When the team moved in 1997, it was a big shock to me, but it really turned out to be a blessing. I want to thank the fans of Tennessee for the five great years that I spent in Nashville."- Bruce Matthews
"He'll always have Titans blood in his veins..."- Carrie Matthews, Bruce's wife.
"You wonder how a guy can play 19 years...After being around him, it's not surprising...He loves this. You can tell. You can tell if he could, he'd be in pads right now and go play. He just loves the game, and it really shows."- Eric Winston
"As long as this guy continued to play at this level and be a solid figure, not just someone filling out a jersey, but someone actually out there doing it as long as he's doing it, it's a great thing."
- Tennessee Titans Tackle, Brad Hopkins, 1999
In 2007, the first year of Bruce's eligibility, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, the only individual whose ever worn a Titans jersey to have been so.
In the backdrop of his playing career, a massively successful NFL family stands tall. Bruce's brother Clay Matthews, Jr, also played an incredible 19 seasons in the NFL, as a linebacker for both the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers. Clay's son's, Clay Matthews III (Green Bay Packers), Casey Matthews (Oregon), and Kyle Matthews (USC) also have to be accounted for.
"I guess once we get going on something, we're hard-headed enough to keep doing it...Maybe there's something wrong with us."
- Clay Matthews Jr, Bruce's brother.
Bruce's sons also have ties to the league. Kevin Matthews is currently a backup guard for the Washington Redskins after several years in Tennessee, and Jake Matthews is a top offensive tackle prospect in this coming NFL Draft.
Bruce's father, the afore-mentioned Clay Matthews Sr has little explanation of his family's ongoing proclivity for NFL stardom.
"Are you asking me if it's something I did?...No, it's nothing I did. I'm just thankful to have them."
- Clay Matthews Sr, Bruce's father.
All said and done, the Matthews clan are the most successful family in NFL history in terms of how many generations and players they have generated. Most pro football players don't need to have a conversation of who's the best athlete in the family at their dinner table. That said, I would place Bruce on the top of the pinnacle. Not just of his own family, but among the greatest offensive linemen, and greatest players to ever play the game of football.
In the end, Bruce's father said it best, and his words carried the efforts that succeeded him for generations.
"'Once you start something, you don't quit it.' He goes; 'If you ever go out there and half-step or give less than you're best effort, I'll come and yank you out.'"
- Bruce Matthews, on his father, Clay Matthews Sr.
A Football Love Affair
Bruce Matthews, if nothing else, is a lover of the game of football. His incredible loyalty to the sport, and to the Oilers/Titans in particular attest to that. Alongside his iron-men resume (that seems more and more ridiculous the more you look at it), and his unwavering football spirit, Bruce Matthews stands as a Tennessee institution, a pillar of the both the community and the team he helped bring along to the state.
His continued coaching exploits to this day are no surprise when you consider what kind of player, and what kind of man Bruce Matthews is. Matthews coached for both the Houston Texans and the Titans (2011-2013), bringing to both teams and their players, the attitude and work ethic that made him such an effective player in his day.
To some, and certainly to this writer, Bruce Matthews stands at the pinnacle of professional football, and deserves every bit of his Canton HOF Enshrinement. There is a special quality about him, a notable pride that goes hand in hand with his name when watching those vintage baby blue Oiler uniforms, watching him carve a path through the noise for Eddie George or Earl Campbell...greatness. That is what it stands as today; a player of such quality that his efforts and accomplishments transcend time.
"He played during three different decades. He played over 300 games, including playoffs. He didn't miss one game because of injury. You knew somehow he was going to be able to line up om Sunday, and he always did. I think he's the kind of guy that could have played in any era. For 19 years, he was as good as anyone that's ever played the game. His accomplishments speak for themselves. I don't know if there's ever been another player like Bruce Matthews in the NFL, and I don't know if there will ever be another one again."
- Mike Munchak