Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss his new book, “Inside the NFL’s First Family: My Life of Football, Faith and Fatherhood,” which delves into his life, career and extensive football family tree.
Matthews is the father of Falcons offensive lineman Jake Matthews, the uncle of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Vikings linebacker Casey Matthews, and his son, Luke Matthews, is a 4-star offensive lineman who has committed to Texas A&M.
And those are just some of the football-playing standouts in the Matthews clan.
“We introduced them to sports,” Matthews said on Tiki and Tierney. “For example, I absolutely loved baseball and I wanted to play in the major leagues and be a catcher. I expected my kids to have the same passion for baseball as I did, and that wasn’t the case. They played a few years and they had some fun at it, but once it became apparent that they didn’t want to play, we gave them the option: ‘Hey, if you don’t want to play, you don’t have to.’ Same thing with football. I guess it’s just burned into our DNA that they’re passionate about it. We made it clear to them: ‘Look, you don’t have to play football. Don’t do this because of mom or dad or the rest of the family. Do it because it’s something that you enjoy.’ That’s been the case so far.”
Still, while no one was pressured to play football, there has to be an internal competitiveness within the family. Sibling rivalry? More like everyone rivalry.
“I think so,” Matthews said. “I was abnormally competitive – to the point of throwing rolls of paper or tape into a trash can. I remember back to elementary days and recess. I absolutely loved going out there, whether it was playing tag or tetherball or basketball – I just loved competing. To me, it never was something I had to push myself into. I enjoyed it, and I really think it’s a gift that God can give us.”
Matthews, 55, played 19 NFL seasons – all for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans. He was a 14-time Pro Bowler, a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“There were guys that came up to me (and said), ‘Man, how do you play for so long?’” Matthews said. “To me, it was the most natural thing because it wasn’t like I was doing anything out of the ordinary. God gave us bodies that could take the pounding, but at the same time, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the practice. There were definitely times when it was a grind. It was hot and miserable, or you’re mired in a losing streak where it wasn’t fun. But still, I was stealing for a lot of years, getting to be a kid basically. I was 40 my last year and I’m thinking, ‘I could be holed up in an office somewhere having a regular job,’ and I’m in there cutting up in the locker room, talking smack. I’m 40 years old and getting to be a kid.”
Now, however, Matthews is content watching his family play football – and he’ll be watching two in the playoffs this weekend. His son, Jake, will block for Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and others against Seattle on Saturday, while his nephew, Clay, will try to disrupt Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott for Green Bay on Sunday. Kickoff for each game is slated for 4:35 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. ET, respectively.
“As an offensive lineman, and I tell this to Jake all the time, you got to do what you do well,” Matthews said. “Yes, you do modify it to your opponent, you study your opponent. Michael Bennett, you got to be ready for everything. He’s quick, he can come with a speed-to-power rush. But at the same time, do what you do well and play the tendencies based on what your opponent does. You can’t rework your game every week to who you’re playing because you can’t really get better at that. Do what you do, do it as well as you ever have and stick with the plan. Understand that they’re going to make plays. They’re just too talented. Guys on defense in the league are too big and strong and fast and well-coached. Understand Seattle is going to make plays. Just minimize the loss and get back there and refocus on what you might have done wrong and fix it for the next play.”