Clay Matthews Sr., head of family that's seen three generations of NFL players, dies at 88

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/9290/" data-ylk="slk:Clay Matthews">Clay Matthews</a> Sr. (Matthews family website)
Clay Matthews Sr. (Matthews family website)

Clay Matthews Sr., the patriarch of one of the NFL’s most successful family trees, died Thursday night at 88 years old.

Matthews was a Korean War veteran who was a two-way lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, playing 45 games over four seasons in the 1950s, a South Carolina native who went on to play at Georgia Tech.

Matthews was the first of three generations of family members to play in the NFL: his two oldest sons, Clay Jr. and Bruce, each played 19 years in the league. Clay Jr., a linebacker, was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1978, spending 16 seasons in Cleveland before finishing his career with the Falcons. He was a four-time Pro Bowler.

Bruce was a first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1983, and is arguably the most versatile offensive lineman in NFL history, starting entire seasons at each of the five positions. Bruce was a 14-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Three of Bruce’s sons went on to the NFL: Jake is the Falcons’ starting left tackle, Kevin played for three teams during his five-year career, and Mike was an undrafted free agent in 2016 who recently signed a futures contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Two of Clay Jr.’s sons made it to the league: Clay III is a six-time Pro Bowl-selected outside linebacker with the Green Bay Packers and Casey was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2011.

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