What Scouts Said About LB Clay Matthews in College

During Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s tenure of stewarding the team through the NFL Draft, just once did he orchestrate a trade to move back into the first round to acquire a second player.

That player was linebacker Clay Matthews.

While today the pick is heralded as one of Thompson’s savviest moves, what did scouts say about Matthews before his career with the Packers took off?

Scott Wolf, Los Angeles Daily News in November 2008

NFL scouts find plenty of reasons to attend USC football practices, with the Trojans having several projected first-round selections on their roster, such as linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, along with safety Taylor Mays.
But the scouts find an unexpected reason to look somewhere else during workouts, as defensive end Clay Matthews seems to boost his stock on a weekly basis.
"He's turned himself into a first-day (selection) and keeps going higher as the season progresses," said a scout who did not wish to be identified.

David Leon Moore, USA Today in December 2008

When Clay Matthews walked on to the USC team in 2004, he was a quintessential can't-make prospect.
He weighed 166 pounds as a junior backup linebacker and tight end at Agoura (Calif.) High. He started as a senior but attracted only one major-college scholarship offer -- Idaho. As major-college prospects went, he was too skinny, too weak and too slow.
It seemed the only thing he had going for him was that name -- Matthews.
"I thought it was intriguing," USC coach Pete Carroll says of Matthews' arrival. "He had that big family background here. So I thought, 'OK, is there some magic in here somehow?' And I didn't see it. He looked like just a good, hardworking kid who was undersized, just not physically ready to match up."
[He] is projected by some mock drafts as a third-round pick.

Mike Herndon, Press-Register (Mobile, AL) in January 2009

Clay Matthews III will try to kick-start his own professional career this week. He believes he can play either outside linebacker or defensive end on the next level, and NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock calls him "one of the best special teams players in the country."

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock in February 2009

"He's got a healthy chip on his shoulder. He's not as naturally gifted as his father. He's worked so hard, he could be a second-round pick and three years ago, he was a walk-on."

Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February 2009

Clay Matthews, OLB, Southern California: 6-3, 246. Started just two games in first three seasons before making his move in ’08. "He wasn’t even starting at the beginning of the year and now people talk about him in the first round," one scout said. "He’s best suited for a 3-4 team. Best thing he does is come forward. He was a walk-on way back and was really small." His dad, Clay, went to the Pro Bowl four times as a LB for the Cleveland Browns in the 1980s.

Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February 2009

Earlier this month, the Journal Sentinel asked 19 personnel men with national orientation to rate the best hybrids on a 1-to-5 basis. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second four and so on.
Penn State’s Aaron Maybin (eight firsts) led with 71 points, followed by Texas’ Brian Orakpo (six firsts), 55; Southern California’s Clay Matthews (four firsts), 37; Northern Illinois’ Larry English (one first), 30; Florida State’s Everette Brown, 27; Tennessee’s Robert Ayers, 21; Georgia Tech’s Michael Johnson, 16.

Finally, 21 scouts agreed to rank USC’s remarkable collection of linebackers on a 1-to-4 basis. The results were extremely close, with Maualuga (10 firsts) finishing with 67 points, Cushing (six firsts) with 62 and Matthews (5 firsts) with 60. Though a solid player, Kaluka Maiava was last on every ballot.

Alan Burge, Houston Examiner in April 2009

During a recent interview on Houston's SportsRadio610, former Houston NFL player Alonzo Highsmith, who is now a college scout for the Green Bay Packers, called Matthews "tough, athletic, and a competitor who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder."

Highsmith said that Matthews wants to show that he's the best of the USC linebackers coming out this year, and that he used Senior Bowl week and the scouting combine as his "coming out party."

The knock on Matthews is his limited experience as a starter. The buzz on Matthews is that he's just now coming into his own physically and despite his lack of experience as a starter, he may actually have a higher ceiling than most outside linebackers in this class.