Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/27/12
Now, you can’t tell me that during your Sunday sports coma you haven’t noticed the cheesehead linebacker with the flowing golden mane and arsenal of fancy footwork.  Clay Matthews, #52 on the Green Bay defensive line, has been bringing in some big numbers and drawing a lot of attention. I can tell you one thing: it’s not just his dance moves.
Matthews by the Numbers
Matthews has been with the Packers for 3 years, during which he’s had 29 sacks, 128 solo tackles, and 4 interceptions for 109 yards. Matthews has also had three forced fumbles, as well as three fumble recoveries. He was the first Packer since 1982 to record sacks in double digits during his first two seasons in the league, and his 17 sacks over the course of his first 20 games were the most to start a career in the NFL. He was the first Green Bay rookie to be selected to the All-Star game since wide receiver James Lofton in 1978.
In 2009, Matthews’s rookie year, he was named to the Pro Bowl as well as the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team. His ten sacks that season placed him second among NFL rookies, only behind Washington’s Brian Orakpo, who had 11.0. During his first start in Green Bay’s base defense, against Detroit, Matthews became the first Green Bay rookie to post a season-high two sacks since Vonnie Holliday in 1998. At Arizona, during the NFC Wild Card, he became the first rookie in NFL playoff history (since sacks became a recorded stat in 1982) to record a forced fumble, a sack, and a defensive fumble in the same game.
In 2010, Matthews started in 15 regular season games, as well as four postseason. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a starter a second year in a row. Pro Football Weekly named him the NFL Defensive MVP, as well as gave him All-NFC recognition. Sporting News and the Committee of 101 named him NFC Defensive Player of the Year. All of these honors can be chalked up to his impressive stats in the 2010 season: 13.5 sacks, 83 tackles (a career high) and 40 QB hits. 2010 also saw Matthews leap for his first career interception, which he ran back for a touchdown.
This past season, Matthews started all 15 of the games in which he appeared. He had 50 tackles (37 solo) and 6.0 sacks. He had three interceptions, one of which he ran back 38 yards for a touchdown. He forced three fumbles.
Toe to Toe: a Linebacker Lineup
These stats mean nothing, however, unless they hold their own in the league. Compare his career high in tackles – 60, during the 2010 season – to Washington’s Lorenzo Alexander, who had a career high of 57 in 2010. How impressive are Matthews’s three interceptions last year, when you know that Dallas’s DeMarcus Ware, Washington’s Brian Orakpo, and New England’s Tracy White, all had zero? Matthews also comes out on top when it comes to forced fumbles: London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins had a career high of four, but that was in the 2006 season. The stats don’t lie: Matthews has earned his hype.
These People Ought to Have Built a Field in their Backyard by Now…
I feel like Matthews has an unfair advantage as far as skills go – he has a rather large well of talent to draw from. Matthews comes from a family with not one, not two, but seven other family members in the football industry. His grandfather, Clay Matthews Sr., played for four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers in the 50s. Clay Matthews Jr., Matthews’s father, was a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns for over 19 seasons, earning him the claim of the third most games played in NFL history. He also earned four Pro Bowl selections and was an All-American. Matthews’s uncle, Bruce Matthews, was an offensive lineman in the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise for 19 years. Bruce played in a NFL-record 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, was an All-American, and was inducted in 2007 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Matthews’s younger brother Casey is a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, his cousin Mike, an offensive lineman, is committed to Texas A&M for the class of 2012, his cousin Jake already holds position of offensive tackle for Texas A&M, and his other cousin Kevin is a center for the Tennessee Titans.
With all of these mentors sitting around the dinner table, I don’t see how NFL watchers wouldn’t expect to see great things coming from #52. Hold onto your cheeseheads, Green Bay fans: you ain’t seen nothing yet!! 

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