Naylor: Football runs deep through Matthews' family tree

David Naylor
1/26/2011 2:18:10 PM
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By now, football fans are familiar with the look.

And so it's not hard at this week's Senior Bowl to pick out Casey Matthews and his long, stringy hair that flows in all directions from underneath his helmet, draped in sweat.

It also doesn't hurt that Casey Matthews plays linebacker, just like his older brother Clay Jr. does now for the Green Bay Packers and the way his father, Clay Sr., used to for the Cleveland Browns.

"I think it was a given," Casey says of his hairstyle. "It just happens to be like that and people notice us because of it. My dad had it long so let's carry on the tradition."

If the Manning family is the NFL's first family of quarterbacks than the Matthews' clan can lay claim to that distinction at linebacker, a tradition that dates back to his grandfather, also Clay Matthews, who played linebacker and offensive line for the San Franscisco 49ers during the 1950s. There is also Casey's uncle Bruce Matthews played offensive line in the NFL for 19 seasons and cousin, Kevin Matthews, who plays centre for the Tennessee Titans.

Those are big expectations to live up to.

"There's a lot of pride," says Casey. "People always say its pressure but it's really just opportunity. I'm trying to make it to the next level like my dad and my brother. I expect a lot of myself and that's just the way it is because of the last name."

This January has been a busy month for the Matthews family, with Clay Jr. on his way to the Super Bowl at linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and Casey having just played for Oregon in the BCS National Championship game before coming to the Senior Bowl.

"It's been a whirlwind," says Clay Sr. who's been at practice all this week. "The BCS and Super Bowl and this, it's definitely a whirlwind."

It all comes on the heels of both players having big seasons. Clay Jr., who was drafted out of USC by the Packers with the 26th overall pick in 2009 and is having a breakout season in the NFL while Casey earned second-team All-America honors this season and was a first-team All-Pac-10 pick.

"It's all happened so fast," says Clay Sr. "Two years ago Clay (Jr.) through (the Senior Bowl) and a year before he'd been trying to get on the field at USC. I'm just enjoying the ride."

Casey is smaller than his older brother and has a slightly different style than Clay Jr. who has made his mark in the NFL getting to the quarterback in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme.

"He's more of a pass rusher and that's been coming for me," says Casey. "I try to watch little bits of his game and work it into mine."

Casey is obviously the beneficiary of good football genes and, like the Mannings, a famous father who helped guide Clay and Casey's development in the game growing up.

"For the most part having my dad as a coach helped me technically and simplified things," says Casey. "I've always wanted to play football but my parents never forced it upon us. He let us go our own way. But it just seemed we adopted football at a young age."

Growing up in a family of linebackers not only helped Casey learn the little things that go with playing the position but also develop the mentality that comes with it.

"You have to be a certain type of leader because you're getting all the calls," says Casey. "And you also have to have a little mean streak."

Casey talked to Clay Jr. after the NFC Championship Game, just to get a little primer on what to expect at the Senior Bowl.

"Having Clay go through this whole process, I talked to him a bit about it," says Casey. "He said to me just be under control and show them what kind of person you are off the field and what kind of player you are on it. And if you make a bad play, don't get upset, just stay calm. He kept it pretty basic."

And does Casey have any advice for his brother's in the upcoming Super Bowl?

"I just said play like you did last year against the Steelers," said Casey. "I didn't have to tell him anything."

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