Mike Munchak (presenter):
I first met Bruce Matthews in training camp in 1983. He was the first round draft choice that season and I was entering my second year with the Houston Oilers. It was his first training camp practice, so obviously all eyes were on him. He didn't disappoint. He came off the ball with such quickness, got into his blocks, great finish, great work ethic. He was amazing.
His footwork now wasn't. His footwork was something to watch. His feet were all over the place. He was like a human weed whacker.
Despite that, we knew that he was going to be something special. From that first practice in training camp I think the coaches quickly realized that because of Bruce's intelligence and his athletic ability he was capable of playing many positions along the offensive line. His first five years in the league they moved him around quite a bit.
In 1988, his sixth season, he settled down, moved inside to the guard and center spot, which gave him a chance to master one position. He responded with 14 Pro Bowls in a row, made All-Pro at center and guard numerous times, went on to be a great player for us. He not only played the five positions inside, he was our snapper on field goals and PATs. He snapped on the punts, which meant he had to cover.
That was some good comedy there watching him cover a kick. He was our emergency quarterback. If a couple quarterbacks ever went down, he on occasion would get a snap in practice. He was also our backup kicker. He worked on kickoffs, punts. Wasn't a great kicker by any means, but that's the kind of value he had to our team, that we felt he could fit in all those spots if need be during a game.
Once he got up in the 200s I think people started bringing it to his attention. It was nothing he ever dwelled on or he felt was a defining moment for him or his career. I think it was something he was looking at now after he retired wondering, How did I ever do that?
I acquired a whole new respect for him when I became his coach. So having a guy like Bruce as versatile as he was for me that I can move him around, as a coach, I slept well at night knowing I had a guy like him that could do those kind of things for me.
He played during three different decades. He played over 300 games, including playoffs. He didn't miss one game because of injury. You knew somehow he was going to be able to line up on Sunday, and he always did. I think he's the kind of guy that could have played in any era. For 19 years, he was as good as anyone that's ever played the game. His accomplishments speak for themselves.
I don't know if there's ever been another player like Bruce Matthews in the NFL, and I don't know if there will ever be another one again.
Bruce and I have a unique relationship. I was his teammate for 11 years, his coach for eight years, but more importantly he has been like family to me for the past 24 years.
We played together on the offensive line for the Houston Oilers for more than a decade. I played left guard. As you saw in the videotape, he played everywhere else. His work ethic, his competitiveness, his passion for the game, were contagious. I know that he motivated me to become a better player. Many of his former teammates, several who are here today, would say the same.
He raised the standard for all of us.
Competitive is the word that best describes Bruce. His desire to be the best is unmatched. He wants to win at everything he does: a sport, a video game, even an argument. He can claim an opinion he doesn't even believe in just to see if he can still win the argument.
Classic Bruce, though, is when you're in a car with him and a song comes on the radio. He immediately yells out the name of the song and the artist. He would say, Springsteen, Glory Days, bam. Even though no one else is playing this game, he's still competing.
But the games that Bruce made up in the locker room are legendary and are still being played today. Ball Master, Helmet Ball, Monkey in the Middle were some of his creations. Of course, the rules are made up by him to facilitate his winning. Over the years he involved many of his teammates in these locker room games. They definitely helped to build camaraderie, relax the players, and ultimately may have contributed to improving their play on Sundays.
I think that Bruce's competitive spirit was his secret weapon and a reason why he played 19 seasons. It kept him young at heart. He always found a way to make it fun, and it showed on the field every Sunday.
When I retired from playing I contemplated going into coaching. One of the motivating factors for me was having the opportunity to coach Bruce and to continue our football relationship. This could be potentially a tough thing, coaching your best friend. But Bruce made it easy for me, I think because I let him do whatever he wanted to do. But he was always a professional through and through.
I took advantage of his leadership and experience and let him show the other linemen through his work habits what it took to be a pro. It was obviously an honor to coach him.
Bruce and I have followed parallel paths during our days in the NFL. We were drafted a year apart by the Houston Oilers in the first round. As offensive linemen, we had similar successes on the field. We shared sweet victories and unfortunately some tough losses.
We have been business partners. We were married two weeks apart. Our wives, Marci and Carrie of 24 years became best of friends, and our children are like brothers and sisters.
Because of our similar experiences, we developed a special bond that goes way beyond the football field. There were many nights after we put our kids to bed that we'd get together and talk for hours. Sometimes we would just sit outside on Bruce's ranch and have a beer, other times we'd go bowling or play some one on one basketball, which I guess I'll admit he usually won.
But during this time together, we'd have great discussions about our careers, our families and our Christian walks.
We were always there to encourage or challenge each other as we worked our ways through life's ups and downs.
Now that Bruce is retired from the NFL, these talks have continued over the phone lines. Bruce, I just want you to know I've always appreciated your advice and honesty over the years. You've been a great example to me of what it takes to be a good husband, father, and Christian. I'm blessed to know you.
It's hard to believe that Bruce has played in 296 regular season games, more than any other player, excluding kickers in NFL history. During a 19 year career, he never missed a game due to injury. He has played approximately 18,000 plays. As his teammate and coach, I have seen every snap Bruce has taken in the NFL. So I know that I'm qualified to stand here today and proudly say, over there sits Bruce Matthews, one of the best to ever play the game.
Bruce, you should be proud. You took the talent that God gave you and used it to the best of your ability. Job well done. Let me be the first to officially welcome you into the Pro Football Hall of Fame family. It is my privilege to present you for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bruce Matthews.
I'd first like to say how honored and blessed I am to be here. If someone had told me when I was a kid that one day I would play in the NFL and let alone be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I wouldn't have believed them. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be standing up here today, and I'd like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for blessing me and my family so much.
As much as I'd like to take credit for everything that's happened in my career, I know it was only because of how the Lord blessed me that I was able to accomplish what I did. My part was the easy part: just go out and use the talents and abilities God gave me. God blessed me with the size, the desire to play the game. He kept me injury free and brought many wonderful coaches and players into my life, and for this I'm very thankful.
Let me begin by thanking the Pro Football Hall of Fame and everyone that has been involved in this week. My wife Carrie and I are amazed at the treatment my family has received since we were named in February. It's added to our enjoyment of this weekend. I'd also like to offer my congratulations to my fellow Hall of Fame classmen. Getting to know them and their families has been a great part of this weekend.
I'd like to thank John McClain of the Houston Chronicle and David Climer of The Tennessean for all they did in getting me elected. I believe that John McClain is one of the most knowledgeable football reporters around, and I'm thankful for his friendship over the last 25 years.
I'd like to thank the owner of the Tennessee Titans, Mr. Bud Adams, for all he did for me and my family in Houston and then in Nashville. I'd like to thank Mike Halovak, Lad Herzog and Ed Bowls for drafting me back in the day.
There have been so many great people in the Oilers/Titans organization over the years, and I'd like to thank them all. But I'd especially like to thank Gordon "Red" Batty, Paul "Hoss" Noska, the late Bill "Mojo" Lackey for taking care of me in the equipment room. I was blessed to play 19 years and never miss a game due to injury, but I had a lot of help from the trainers, especially Brad Brown, Don Moseley and Geoff Kaplan. I'd like to thank my strength and conditioning coach, Steve Watterson, for his expertise and especially his friendship.
One of my favorite parts of game week was drinking coffee and joking with our head of security, Joe Dugger, who passed away a couple years ago the night before the game, after the team meal had cleared. There are so many memories. I'm thankful for all of them.
I grew up in a very athletic family, the youngest of five children. We were very close. My parents, Daisy and Clay Matthews, set an example of excellence, honesty, integrity, and love for which I feel very blessed.
Although my mother Daisy passed away after my rookie season in 1984, I owe so much to the love and support she gave me and all us kids while growing up, and I miss her very much.
I'm thankful for my older sister, Christie, and all the support and love she's given me and how she never let me get too full of myself. I love you.
My older twin brothers Brad and Raymond were always an inspiration to me in how they competed in the Special Olympics. Although Brad passed away in 2002, they've always been my biggest supporters and I love them very much. I love you, Ray.
Many people never had anyone that they looked up to while they were growing up, but I was blessed to have two people in my house who were my role models. The first was my father, Clay, Sr. He is without a doubt the man I most admire and respect in this world. He played in the early 1950s for the San Francisco 49ers. Although I never saw him play, I can only imagine he would have been a handful to play against. My dad taught me about doing what was right no matter what the cost, never quitting, and what it meant to be a man of integrity.
One of my finest memories of the day the Hall of Fame results were announced was three or four hours later after the phone lines had cleared and I finally had a chance to talk to my dad. I said, Dad, did you hear the news? My dad jokingly said, Yeah, I didn't make it in again. I guess I'm no longer eligible (laughter).
Obviously we had a great laugh, and I just want to say, Pop, I love you very much. I still respect and admire you.
My next role model was my older brother Clay. Cleveland Brown. He is five years older than me. So as I grew up, he was the one I wanted to be like. He was and still is my favorite player of all time. I love to brag to teammates about him.
He played linebacker for the Cleveland Browns for 16 years and the Atlanta Falcons for three years. Since the Browns were a division rival of the Oilers, I got to play against him 23 times. Getting to play against your idol twice a year was one of the highlights of my career, and it was always something I looked forward to. I especially loved to play in Cleveland and check out all the banners and No. 57 jerseys in the crowd, see how much they loved him and still do.
I always felt as though I was witnessing something special, something that nobody else had had the opportunity to do in the history of the game. My favorite part of game week was Wednesday morning when our offensive coordinator would give an overview of the Browns defense. I would beam with pride as he talked about how we would deal with my brother. I had to learn to watch every play on film twice: First time I watched my brother, and then the second time I had to watch the guy who I was supposed to block.
My hope was that my brother would have a great game individually, but we would win the game. Although it ended up pretty even. One of us won 12 and one of us won 11. As many times as I counted, I can't remember who won the most.
Those games proved challenging and I would find my mind wandering, wondering how my brother was doing. It took me a couple of years to learn how to prepare and play against him.
In 1986, he beat me for a sack. Although I hated giving up sacks, I didn't mind because it was to him, although I swore not to let it happen again, and it didn't.
I want to go on the record as saying that my brother Clay Matthews was without a doubt the best all around linebacker I've ever played with or against. There were some who may have been better at one discipline of linebacking, but none better all around. He played outside, inside, played the run well, covered backs, wide receivers, tight ends, rushed the passer, and excelled at all of them.
In an era of specialization, he was on the field every play and holds the record for most games played by a linebacker. The only negative surrounding my induction into the Hall of Fame is that my brother isn't already in here.
All I can say is I look forward to the day when he's standing up here getting inducted because he's very deserving. He taught me about hard work, discipline, dedication, and the mindset necessary to excel. He was not only a role model, a big brother, but a best friend, and I thank God for him. I love you, my brother.
I've been blessed over the years with many great coaches and players that I've had the opportunity to work with. I'd like to thank my high school coach, Dick Sauder, from Arcadia, California, who made it here today. Thanks, coach. And my line coaches, Bob Digiacomo and Paul Weinberger, for working with me as well.
I've been amazed by the support of my former Apache teammates. I want to thank them for being here today and at the event in California last month. I must also make a special recognition of my best friend from high school, Big Dave Sam Samarsachic for being such a great friend and keeping the Apache spirit alive.
Playing football at the University of Southern California was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I'd like to thank my head coach, John Robinson, who is here today, and my line coaches, my offensive line coaches, Hudson Hauck and Jerry Ataway for all they did for me.
Playing with future Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz
, Ronnie Lott
, Marcus Allen
, and my future head coach Jeff Fisher, and numerous No. 1 draft choices taught me how to compete and made me a better player.
At this time also I take great pride in the fact that USC has the most players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I'd especially like to thank my former teammates, Don Mosebar and Dave Holden and my roommate from college Doug Branscom for their friendship and for putting up with me. Getting drafted by the Houston Oilers was a dream come true. I have many great memories from the good years as well as the not so good ones. I want to thank the fans of Houston for all their support and love they showed me and say that there was nothing like the Astrodome on a Sunday afternoon.
When the team moved in 1997, it was a big shock to me, but it really turned out to be a blessing. I want to thank the fans of Tennessee for the five great years that I spent in Nashville.
I also want to thank my buddy Bob Queen for working out with me in Texas for so many years when the team moved up to Tennessee and I still stayed in Texas in the off season, especially as we were approaching 40 years old. Thanks, Bob.
I was blessed to play with so many great players and coaches over my 19 years, but I'd love to thank them all personally. I'd like to thank the team chaplains who gave me so much spiritual support and helped me stay grounded in my faith. I'd like to thank Greg Headington for leading me to the Lord, Mike Meyers, James Mitchell and Reggie Pleasant. I'd like to recognize and thank my offensive line coaches, Bill Walsh, who is here today, Kim Helton, the late Bob Young, Larry Bechtol, Renney Simmons and Mike Munchak
Mike Munchak was my teammate for 11 years. He was my roommate in the hotel and the offensive lineman that I aspired to be like. He was my best friend, my advisor and an example of the man I wanted to be like. His family and mine are very close. We love Marci, Alex and Julie very much. As great as a player as Mike was, a Hall of Famer obviously, I believe that Mike is an even better coach. Mike was able to communicate to his players like no coach I had ever had, and I believe that he helped me become a better player each of the eight seasons that he coached me.
Introducing Mike for his induction in the Hall of Fame in 2001 was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I'm honored that he introduced me today. I thank God for my friendship with Mike. You're like a brother to me and I love you very much.
God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and family. So much of my success is due to the support and love they have given me. We've been blessed with seven children. Steven, Kevin, Marilyn, Jake, Mikey, Luke and Gwinny. You're each a gift from God and I love you all very much.
I met my wife Carrie at USC. She is the one thing that I cherish most on this earth. You are my best friend, and I hate to think what life would be without you. As great as all the athletic awards and accolades have been, they do not compare to knowing and loving you. I thank God for you and I look forward to whatever He has in store for us next.
Thank you for making these last 27 years so awesome. I love you very much.
In conclusion, I want to say that having your name mentioned with the all time greats of the game is a tremendous honor and very humbling to me. It is a dream come true, and I'd like to thank everyone, once again, who had anything to do with getting me here. I've never been more aware of how much the Lord Jesus Christ has blessed me and loves me than at this very moment, and I want to thank Him again because that is where the credit is due. Thank you all for this amazing honor. Thank you.