Saturday, January 29, 2011

Clay Matthews; An NFL All-Pro with Football in his Genes and a Hair Stylists Dream

In these days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, few players are being talked about more than Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and not for his play on the field, which as been at a pro-bowl level all season.  Matthews had 60 tackles and 13.5 sacks(good for 4th most in the NFL) in 2010 and had an outstanding postseason to help lead his Packers into Super Bowl XLV.  Still this is not the biggest topic of conversation swirling around Matthews in this year's playoffs.

What has the media and the country abuzz about this ferocious, quarterback devouring 6'3", 255lbs. linebacker?

His hair!

It's actually the Super Bowl opponent Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu who has the most famous hair in the NFL sporting a multitude of "Head and Shoulders" shampoo commercials that have aired across all games every Sunday of the NFL season and it's Polamalu who has a $1M insurance policy on his flowing curly locks, but there's been great debate amongst who's hair is better; Polamalu's or Matthews.

Clay Matthews celebrates his hair being so awesome
Troy Polamalu - Still thinks his hair is the best in the NFL

When he runs around the field to make plays, his mass of blond hair that extends about a full 12 inches out of the back of his helmet, make him highly distinguishable on the field.  In a league where players wear helmets, it's often difficult to stand out to the masses despite great play.  But when you see him out there, he reminds you of an intense, bone-crunching version of Fabio.  But even Fabio would be jealous of this hair... and this kind of manliness.

Fabio with his date; a bouquet of flowers and a heart-shaped box of chocolates

It's the hair that has everyone talking about him, but it's what he's done for the Packer team that is relevant.  He's the defensive MVP of this team and is very likely to be named the NFL's defensive league MVP, which is an honor only three Packers can claim in the franchise's storied, 92 year history.  It's not just his play that garners so much respect, but his leadership and work ethic.  Those intangibles he possesses are no surprise to his family though.  He comes from a lineage of great NFL players.

Clay Matthews is actually Clay Matthews the third.  His father, Clay Matthews Jr., played 19 seasons in the NFL, most notably with the Cleveland Browns as did his uncle, Bruce Matthews, a 19 year veteran who's been enshrined in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a center playing all of his years as for the Tennessee Titans franchise(formerly known as the Houston Oilers).  His grandfather, Clay Matthews Sr., was a member of the San Francisco 49ers for 4 seasons as well.  Coming up along with Matthews III are his cousins and his younger brother.  His cousin, Kevin, like Bruce before him, is a center for the Tennessee Titans and his second cousin, Jake, is a starting right tackle for the Aggies of Texas A&M.  Meanwhile, his brother Casey was a staple at linebacker for the Oregon Duck's national championship run that came up a hair short against Auburn and Cam Newton.

Like the family's tradition of great NFL players, the hair is also a tradition.  Matthews Jr., his father, played his career with long hair, as does his younger brother Casey.  It was his father, Matthews Jr., who pressed his sons from a young age to keep the Matthews tradition of long hair.  Perhaps there's an undertone of the Herculean biblical hero Samson's approach to hair with the Matthews family.  It was, after all, Samson who made having long hair not just a metaphor for inhuman strength, but a literal sense to strength in hair as the narrative goes where Samson is given the strength of God but only if he is to never cut his natural born hair.  Samson, of course, goes on to having his hair cut in his sleep and loses all of his strength.  I think the Matthews take this biblical reference of Samson to heart and may feel that the Matthews' strength is in the mane.

Clay Matthews Jr. (Father)

Casey Matthews(brother)

Matthews III was never meant for greatness it seemed.  On his California high school football team, his position coach thought so little of his play that he didn't start him for most of his high school career.  That coach was his dad, Clay Jr.  On a list of the top 250 high school linebackers as college prospects, he didn't make the list.  Even with his father and uncle being former All-Americans at USC, he was offered no scholarship and Clay III had to join the Trojans as a walk-on.  Even as a player on the team, it took Clay more than 4 of his five years at USC to get a starting position on the team.

Matthews III was known as the most intense player in the weight-room at USC

In just over half of a season as a collegiate starter and a blitzkrieg of the NFL scouting combine where he posted the second fastest 10 yard burst in his 40-yard dash time, something rarely ever seen in a linebacker, Clay III became a first round draft pick and has been trying to prove himself still, even with the success he's had on such a high level.

Clay Matthews III, or "Little Clay," as he is known around the Matthews family has a hard time gaining the respect of his family members, but he's quickly gaining the respect of everyone in the football world(and in hair salons) not named Matthews.  Come a win on February 6th, 2011, he'll have the one thing that his Matthews elders could not achieve even in their 42 combined seasons in the NFL; an NFL Championship.

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