BEREA, Ohio — Former Cleveland Browns linebacker Clay Matthews did not receive a call in early February for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his phone was far from silent, as his old team had an honor to bestow upon him.
Already a member of the Browns Legends, Matthews will be honored with induction into the “Ring of Honor” at FirstEnergy Stadium during the September 22nd Sunday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Rams, for whom his son, Clay Matthews III, plays.
“I was honored,” Matthews said in a release announcing the honor. “I mean, the Browns have a pretty good legacy of players in that group. We lived through that generation of players, mostly in the 60s, who were so successful, and to be included in that group is just an honor.
“It seems like they’re doing a pretty good job of picking talent around there, so I’m going to ride that wave. The Browns, even though they had a little hiccup for a while when the team went away and came back, that’s what you think of when you think of the NFL. At least for myself growing up, the Browns, Packers, Bears, those type of teams that were there from long ago. To be included at this level is just a huge honor.”
A first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1978 NFL Draft, Matthews spent 16 years in Cleveland, where in 232 games, 216 of which were starts, he registered 76.5 quarterback sacks, 1,430 total tackles, 14 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries.
A four-time Pro Bowler in Cleveland, Matthews ranks first in Browns history with 76.5 sacks, games played and most consecutive seasons, as well as second in total years of service to the organization.
Despite playing a physical position where making violent collisions were commonplace, Matthews set a standard for the rest of the defense and proved remarkably durable over his 19-year career.
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Overall, Matthews played in 278 games, making the start in 248 contests, and was on the field for 12 or more games in all but one season in his nearly 20-year NFL career.
“To me, it was a no-brainer,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “That guy symbolizes everything it means to be a Cleveland Brown. Respect and honor for the game of professional football, his passion for the game.
“He was one of those guys I personally looked up to and thought was an exceptional football player in his era. I’ve always been taught if you dominate the league during a decade, you should definitely be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Created by former team executive Mike Holmgren, the “Ring of Honor” has honored the franchise’s 16 Hall of Famers (15 players, one coach), as well as former All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and his 10,363 consecutive snaps streak played.
And when Matthews joins the “Ring of Honor,” he will be supported by family, friends and former teammates, as well as a loyal legion of fans.
“When I come back here, the folks are just so involved and cared so much about the team,” Matthews said. “It made my 16 years here just delightful.
“The way you could go anywhere and folks here wouldn’t bother you too much, but you’d have a conversation and they were knowledgeable and informed, it was just a great experience. The only thing lacking was getting completely over the top and winning the Super Bowl, but we’re heading in the right direction.”