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Clay Matthews, rookie linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, earned his spot at the Matthews’ NFL family table during his initial professional campaign. A late bloomer that wasn’t heavily recruited his junior year of high school, Matthews starred at USC before being a first round choice in the 2009 NFL Draft (26th overall – Draft Page).

Matthews posted impressive stats during his rookie season, but it wasn’t the numbers that make me want to recognize him a day after the Cardinals eliminated the Packers in as entertaining a football game as there has ever been. From a fan perspective it was fun watching him play with the same ferocity and passion I was lucky enough to see from his dad, Clay Jr., and uncle, Bruce (I never saw Clay Sr. play, but he suited up for the 49ers in the 1950’s) during their respective 19 year careers.

Clay Jr. played for the Browns and the Falcons as a hard-hitting, reliable linebacker, earning 4 Pro Bowl nods.

Bruce is regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history. Extremely versatile, he lined up at center, guard and tackle positions at different points of his career with Bud Adams’ organization (Oilers and Titans). His 14 Pro Bowls helped propel him to Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement.

It seems there are so many instances of  a second (or third) generation player not living up to his father, much less an all-world uncle. But after one year, Matthews has already earned his first Pro Bowl birth after leading Green Bay with 10 sacks, a Packers rookie record – at least putting him on the path his family blazed.

The fact I thought of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis at times during Packers games during the regular season, based on Matthews’ controlled chaos approach to every play, stuck with me and led me to this post. I’d like to thank #52 on the Packers defense for caring so much and hope he has some great conversations, now having earned the opportunity to truly rub shoulders with the legends in his family. Now it will be interesting to see if he can play as long as they did, at this elite level.