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Matthews in 1984
Matthews in 1984

Bruce Rankin Matthews (born August 8, 1961) is a former American football offensive lineman who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 19 seasons, from 1983 to 2001. He spent his entire career playing for the Houston / Tennessee Oilers / Titans franchise. Highly versatile, throughout his NFL career he played every position on the offensive line, starting in 99 games as a left guard, 87 as a center, 67 as a right guard, 22 as a right tackle, 17 as a left tackle, and was the snapper on field goals, PATs, and punts. Having never missed a game due to injury, his 293 NFL games started is the second most of all time.

Matthews played college football for the University of Southern California, where he was recognized as a consensus All-American for the USC Trojans football team as a senior. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Oilers. He was a 14-time Pro Bowl selection, tied for the most in NFL history, and a nine-time first-team All-Pro. Matthews was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, and his number 74 jersey is retired by the Titans.

After retiring as a player, Matthews served as an assistant coach for the Houston Texans and Titans. A member of the Matthews family of football players, he is the brother of linebacker Clay Matthews Jr.; father of center Kevin Matthews and tackle Jake Matthews; and uncle of linebacker Clay Matthews III and linebacker Casey Matthews.

Early years

Bruce Rankin Matthews was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Clay Matthews Sr. and Daisy Matthews. His father was a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s.[2] Bruce played football at Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California. He was an immediate standout on the offensive and defensive line, along with highschool wrestling. As a junior in 1977 he was named to the All-California Interscholastic Federation third team,[3] and as a senior he played in the Shrine All-Star Football Classic alongside John Elway.[4] Arcadia later retired his No. 72 jersey.[5]

College career

Matthews attended the University of Southern California, where he played all offensive line positions at various times for the USC Trojans football team. As a senior in 1982 he was shifted from weakside to strongside guard to replace departing Roy Foster as the principal blocker in the "Student Body Right" play.[6] He was named to the first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference team after his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he earned consensus All-America honors and won the Morris Trophy, which is awarded to the best lineman in the conference.[7]

Professional career

Matthews is considered to be one of the most versatile offensive linemen to play in the NFL.[8][9] He started in 99 games as a left guard, 67 as a right guard, 87 as a center, 22 as a right tackle, 17 as a left tackle, and was the snapper on field goals, PATs, and punts.[10] He was selected to 14 Pro Bowls, tying a league record set by Merlin Olsen.[5] Matthews was also named a first-team All-Pro nine times and an All-American Football Conference selection 12 times.[11] An extremely durable player, Matthews retired after the 2001 season having played more games (296) than any NFL player, excluding kickers and punters,[1] and played in more seasons (19) than any offensive lineman. He never missed a game due to injury, and started 229 consecutive games. Matthews is the only player who played against the Baltimore Colts in their last game at Memorial Stadium in 1983 and against the Baltimore Ravens in their last game at Memorial Stadium in 1997.[12]

The Houston Oilers drafted Matthews with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft. During his first two seasons, he blocked for future Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. As a rookie he played guard and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team.[13] Before his second season Matthews was moved from right guard to center,[14] snapping to rookie quarterback Warren Moon, but due to injuries on the offensive line he played multiple positions that season; at one point he played center, guard, and tackle in successive weeks.[15] In 1985 and 1986, Matthews alternated between right and left tackle.[16]

Matthews sat out the first eight games of the 1987 season due to a contract dispute.[17] When he returned, he was moved back to right guard. He remained at the right guard position in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and was invited to the Pro Bowl each season. He also earned first-team All-Pro recognition each year from the Associated Press (AP), Pro Football Weekly, and The Sporting News.[16] Matthews thrived in the run and shoot offensive scheme adopted by the Oilers around this time, which required linemen to be exceptionally agile.[18] The holes he opened up helped running back Mike Rozier to consecutive Pro Bowls in 1987 and 1988.[19]

The Oilers placed Matthews at center for the final game of the 1990 season in an effort to bolster the team's running game. Of the move, Matthews said, "I'd like to stay at guard, but forces greater than myself make these adjustments."[20] Behind blocking by Matthews and fellow future Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, Oilers quarterback Warren Moon led the league in passing yards in 1990 and 1991, and running back Lorenzo White was a 1992 Pro Bowl selection.[21] Matthews remained the team's center through the 1994 season, being named to the Pro Bowl each year.[16]

Prior to the 1995 season, Matthews signed a four-year, $10.3 million contract extension with the Oilers.[22] That year, the Oilers signed free agent center Mark Stepnoski, and as a result Matthews moved to left guard.[23] He spent the majority of the rest of his career at the position, occasionally filling in for injured players along the offensive line. During this time, the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee after the 1996 season. His blocking helped running back Eddie George to four straight Pro Bowl seasons.[24] In 1999, at age 37, Matthews signed another four-year contract to remain with the Oilers.[25] That season, the Oilers rebranded as the Tennessee Titans. The team won 13 games, plus three more in the playoffs before losing to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.[26] Matthews retired from football prior to the 2002 season at age 40.[19]


On February 27, 2009, Matthews returned to Houston where he was signed on as an offensive assistant with the Houston Texans after volunteer coaching at his children's high school, Elkins High School.

On February 9, 2011, Matthews was hired as offensive line coach by new Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak. Both were Hall of Fame linemen for the Houston Oilers. Regarding his new job, Matthews stated, "For me this is an opportunity of a lifetime. It is such a unique opportunity to work with Mike because I think he will do a great job. It is just one of those things I couldn't pass up."[27]

After finishing the 2013 season with a 7–9 record, Titans general manager Ruston Webster and Tommy Smith met with Munchak and gave him the option to fire a large contingent of assistant coaches, which included Matthews, in exchange for an extension and a raise, or lose his job as head coach. Munchak was not willing to fire everyone they were ordering him to fire, so Munchak parted ways with the Titans, along with Matthews and the other assistant coaches they wanted him to fire.[28]

Honors and legacy

In his first year of eligibility, Matthews was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2007. He was inducted during the Enshrinement Ceremony on August 5, 2007 with the unveiling of his bust, sculpted by Scott Myers. He is the only player from the Tennessee Titans to be given this honor since the relocation from Houston. He was the fifth player from the 1983 NFL draft class to be enshrined, joining Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson, John Elway, and Jim Kelly; Darrell Green and Richard Dent later became the sixth and seventh members.[29] Matthews was selected as a guard on the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s.[30] In 2010, he was ranked 78th on The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players by the NFL Network.[18]

Personal life

Matthews comes from a football family. A devout Christian as evidenced in his Hall of Fame Speech, he is the son of Clay Matthews Sr., who played in the NFL in the 1950s. His brother, Clay Jr., also played 19 seasons in the NFL. Bruce is the uncle of Los Angeles Rams linebacker Clay Matthews III, former NFL linebacker Casey Matthews, and Kyle Matthews of USC football. Bruce and his wife, Carrie, have seven kids: Steven, Kevin, Marilyn, Jake, Mike, Luke, and Gwen.[2] His son Kevin played center for Texas A&M until the 2009 football season and then played in the NFL for five years as a member of the Titans and Carolina Panthers. Jake Matthews played offensive tackle for Texas A&M and is currently a member of the Atlanta Falcons. His son Mike played on the offensive line for Texas A&M, where he was the starting center.[31] His youngest son, Luke, is currently in high school and was selected for the 2018 Army All-American Bowl, and is a verbal commit to Texas A&M. Matthews is the uncle of tight end Troy Niklas by way of his wife's sister.[32]

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