Pete Carroll calls Clay Matthews one of his “great mistakes” in coaching.
Matthews played for Carroll at USC but didn’t become a full-time starter until his senior season with the Trojans. Instead, he had primarily played on special teams after walking on to the team out of high school.
“When Clay came in he was 208 pounds and he didn’t run really well. He wasn’t really strong, but he loved playing and he tried really hard. Unfortunately, this is one of the great mistakes that I missed in my coaching at SC was how good of a player he was,” Carroll said Thursday. “I had said going in I think maybe his junior year somebody asked me about Clay Matthews and I said I think he might be one of the best special teamers to ever play at USC. He was a great player on [special] teams. I knew I couldn’t really validate that, but I was blowing him up because he was a great kid.
“Well, when we got to his senior year, he wasn’t starting. He didn’t start the first game. I think we were playing Oregon State, and we had some problems. We put him in the game, and said we know Clay will do the right thing. He started playing there, and he’s been a great player since the time he was given the opportunity to show it. He was always there banging away. Always there fighting, clawing and scratching.
“Maybe because of the way he came up, it took him a long time to develop, and didn’t recognize the great heart that he had, and unbelievable competitiveness and the great savvy that he demonstrates now. It’s really one of my big misses. I should have figured that out a lot sooner than I did. He made the rest of it history and been an extraordinary player ever since.”
Matthews has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times, a first-team All-Pro once, a second-team selection twice and won a Super Bowl since being selected by the Green Bay Packers in 2009. Carroll and Matthews will be on the same field again Sunday when the Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.