Clay Matthews: The Player Who Introduced Me to Green Bay and the NFL
When the official announcement came yesterday that, after 10 years with the franchise, Clay Matthews is to leave the Green Bay Packers for the Los Angeles Rams, our ENRG Sport co-editor Erin McRitchie, had some personal feelings towards the situation.
Matthews is synonymous with the Packers #52 jersey. (Photo: USA Today Sports)
We always think that sport will keep its fairy-tale tinge. We hope for perfect franchise careers. We long for the days of players spending their whole careers in one jersey, serving as bastions of a team for decades to come. It doesn’t always happen that way. Change arrives, and farewells have to be made.
This one is a little hard to take. My love for the NFL started with this player.
My choice was made during a family holiday to the United States. I indulged myself in watching whatever snippets of games I had the time for while out there. This was the first time I really remember seeing him play. He became my favourite player rather quickly. Once that decision was made, I knew there could only be one team for me to support.
So, the girl from Perth, Scotland would support the Green Bay Packers. All thanks to the green and gold #52 jersey wearing linebacker from California – Clay Matthews III.
Admittedly, it did have the added sweetness of my chosen adoptive team being one of my Uncle’s least favourites, but alas that was not the sole reason for my choice.
Surely others have been in the situation where the talent of a player so captures your attention, that you can’t help but pay attention. For a girl who was already coming to the decision that sports journalism was the career for me, being introduced to a new sport by such an animated character was the perfect scenario.
From then on, I went on an information binge, researching the history of the Packers, looking at everything that had made the franchise one of the most recognisable throughout the whole league – coming to know the players, coaches and trophies that had gone before.
I, obviously, also kept a close eye on the progress of the team throughout the seasons, and more specifically, the progress of Matthews and his career stats. It’s not been an easy watch as of late, but that’s the life of sports – there are ups and downs, unbelievable accomplishments and unbearable trip-ups.
Even if game days did not produce positive outcomes, there was always video highlights to turn to – clips of the many sacks, his ground-breaking first season in the league, the Super Bowl XLV win, even the ridiculous chatter picked up by the mic’d up helmets – to bring a smile to my face.
There was a bright spark in recent seasons, however, for Clay Matthews obtained the Green Bay Packers franchise record for sacks with 83.5 – thus ensuring that his name will always be associated with the linebacker position in Wisconsin.
Matthews career accomplishments with the Packers are certainly impressive. (Photo: Green Bay Packers twitter)
For coming on 10 years Matthews has graced the Lambeau Field turf. Drafted 26th overall in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, Matthews was a hot commodity at linebacker, coming out of USC into the NFL as the newest part of a family legacy – his father Clay Matthews Jr and uncle Bruce Matthews both played in the league, whilst Matthews is nowadays joined by his brother and cousins in playing professionally.
More than any of this, love him or hate him, you have to admit that the larger than life character he unleashes on the field is a by-product of pure passion for the game. Depending on your allegiance, this may not be a repercussion of his play that you like, but he always puts on a show.
Unfortunately, the show will no longer be put on at Lambeau Field in the Packers green and gold jersey. Instead, Los Angeles will be the stage, and the Rams colours will be the costume.
Despite this, I will never forget the fact that the first NFL jersey I ever received was a Clay Matthews Green Bay Packers one. It will never be ditched from my wardrobe. I will continue to wear it, knowing how important Matthews was to my love for the internationally acclaimed American sport.
And so, for every hair flip, every sack – and the resulting celebration – and every forced fumble, interception or defensive touchdown, I extend a thank you to Clay Matthews. He will always be one of the main reasons I love a sport that is so far away. And he will always be the reason that I choose to support the Green Bay Packers.