Ring of Honor induction should help Clay Matthews Jr.’s Hall of Fame case

"I would love for that to happen. I just think it is something I am uncomfortable talking about”

Daryl Ruiter
September 22, 2019 - 12:00 pm

© Scott R. Galvin/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – When the Ring of Honor was introduced in 2010, it was reserved for the Browns’ 16 Hall of Famers.

Clay Matthews Jr. is the first without a bust in Canton, Ohio to join the ranks of the franchise’s legends to be honored at FirstEnergy Stadium as his name and No. 57 were added in a halftime ceremony Sunday night.

“I was completely surprised. There are some powerful figures in that Ring of Honor – figures that we as Browns of the 70s, 80s and 90s tried to match,” Matthews said. “We got close, but we never got the Super Bowl, which they had World Championships. Those were always incredible figures that we could not quite match up to, but we were aware of them and their names and what they had done. When you look at that and the company, I am again just so humbled.”

Most of Matthews family was on hand – some 20 members, including several of his 10 grandchildren – this weekend. His son, Clay III, who had two sacks, two tackles for loss, a pass break up and forced fumble in the Rams’ 20-13 win, surprised his father with a video message before coming out of the locker room early to give him a hug.

“It was awesome to see… I was able to catch him at the tail end of his speech at halftime. It was cool to see,” Matthews III said. “It looked like he got emotional up there. For me as his son growing up I figured everybody’s father did the same thing. I would not say he did not do anything special as he played 19 years. Now, I’m in my 11th year and understand what it takes to play at a top level and dealing with injuries and preserving.

“To see this city that gave back to us so much and he gave back to them so much, and to award him by putting him in the Ring of Honor is special.”

Matthews daughter, Jennifer, has been campaigning for years to get Matthews into the Hall of Fame, but so far, her efforts have fallen short with voters.

Matthews has been a semifinalist for the hall three times, including last year.

“I was motivated to be the best player I could be. Actually, I had a goal to be the best linebacker that there was in the league,” Matthews said. “Yet whenever somebody talks about, ‘Hey you did a pretty good job or we would like to get you an award,’ I feel extremely uncomfortable in that conversation. It got beat into me that we were going to win or lose as a team.”

Matthews’ resume is impeccable.

Matthews, selected by the Browns 12th overall in the 1978 draft, was one of the league’s best linebackers and most durable players. He played in 278 games — the 21st most in NFL history — and amassed 1,561 tackles over that span.

Matthews, one of the cornerstones of the last great era of Browns football three decades ago, was a three-time All Pro and received four Pro Bowl nods.

During his 16 seasons with the Browns from 1978-93, Matthews racked up 76.5 sacks, 1,430 total tackles, 14 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries.

Canton should be calling.

“That honor is a magical honor. Gosh, I would love for that to happen,” Matthews said. “I just think it is something I am uncomfortable talking about because I realize anything I did as a player really required my teammates to be there. Any height I reached, they helped me get there. I have really become aware of how important that is and how much I feel about that.”

Many of Matthews’ former teammates joined him this weekend for the festivities that included a banquet Saturday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.

More than the statistics, wins, and even bitter losses, that’s what Matthews remembers most about his time in Cleveland where he helped lead the team to five AFC central titles and the AFC title games, all heartbreaking losses to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.  

“When you run into the older players, a lot of times to a degree you do not really remember the super highs and the super lows, but you remember the locker room and that atmosphere,” Matthews said. “It is a magical transition when all of these players from different backgrounds are brought in and they are working so hard for a common goal. It is just amazing how that works.

“Those things seem to stand out as much or perhaps more than the magical moments on the field. Certainly, the losses, the catastrophic on the verge of the Super Bowl, those type of losses [hurt]. There was a lot of good in that. Your team would get on a magical run. It was amazing when everything was clicking right and working.”

The Browns view Matthews as a Hall of Famer and treated him as such by adding him to the Ring of Honor.

It’s time the voters do too and make it official.

A stop in Canton should be next.