Gold Jacket Spotlight: Bruce Matthews an iron man with passion for service

Gold Jacket Spotlight Published on : 9/18/2023
The Houston Oilers utilized their first selection (ninth overall) in the 1983 NFL Draft to choose BRUCE MATTHEWS from the University of Southern California. Thus began the ironman career of the durable and versatile offensive lineman.

Before retiring following the 2001 season, Bruce played every position on the offensive line and was selected to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls. He participated in 296 games, a record for a full-time position player (non-kicker) at the time of his retirement. 

Bruce, who attained each of those milestones while playing for the same organization throughout his career, this week steps into the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

As Dan Samarzich, a former high school teammate, told the Los Angeles Times: “No offense to Cal Ripken Jr., but Bruce is the real ironman. A collision every play, 296 games.”

In the 2010 NFL Films production “The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players,” Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon noted: “The thing that really impressed me about Bruce was his feet for a guy his size. He had very, very nimble feet. He had a very low center of gravity and never really got knocked out of technique. He was always balanced, always square, and that is something very important for an offensive lineman to be successful.”

Moon continued, “He could play every position on the offensive line and made All-Pro at two of those different positions. Bruce was one of those guys you could count on each and every week.”

Bruce was named an All Pro first-teamer at both the guard positions and at center.

“I think anyone who has ever played the game has the utmost respect and admiration for Bruce in what he has been able to do. And he certainly has to be a bionic man,” Pro Football Hall of Famer DICK LeBEAU acknowledged while coaching in Cincinnati. “He is a wonderful example for all of us, along with a great testimony to the game and the standard of professionalism in his sport.”

Bruce’s brother, Clay Matthews Jr., also logged a 19-year NFL career. While explaining the Matthews’ longevity, Bruce told the Washington Post, “The good Lord gave me a body that could stand up to a lot of pounding, and my brother is the same way. It wasn’t any workout routine or nutritional supplements we’ve taken. We’re blessed with bodies that can play this game, get abused and bounce back, and I feel an obligation to use it while I can.”

His sense of obligation to serve others has followed a similar ironman path.

In 2001, Bruce received the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award, created to honor the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. The award is named after Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP BART STARR.     

Throughout his career, Bruce was highly regarded for his integrity and work ethic, ideals he learned growing up.

“We were taught values like integrity and keeping your word, and if you make a commitment you stick to it. There was no quitting in my family,” Bruce said while accepting the award.

Included among Bruce’s many off-field commitments are working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Bruce has also spoken and participated at the National Down Syndrome Conference and Youth Rally on multiple occasions. 

Former teammate, coach, longtime friend and fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE MUNCHAK might have summarized Bruce’s effort and character best: “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.”