Bruce Matthews Tennessee Titans
"Fear…that's the thing that drives me…the fear of getting beat. It's not so much throwing a great block that springs a guy for a touchdown. It's more ... don’t get beat for a sack, don't be the guy who causes the running back to get blown up, don't be the guy who makes the mental error that causes Steve (McNair) to get blindsided."
The Houston Oilers selected offensive lineman Bruce Matthews with the 9th pick overall in the 1983 National Football League Draft. The move paid huge dividends for the franchise for the next 19 seasons.
When Matthews retired as a member of the Tennessee Titans following the 2001 season, no full-time positional player in NFL history had competed in more games (296) than the former USC All-America. In fact, he played so long that his former Trojan teammate, Jeff Fisher, became his NFL coach. A three-time Offensive Lineman of the Year, Matthews started 292 of his 296 games played in the regular season and started all 15 playoff games in which he played.
Matthews began his pro career as a guard and earned a starting role on the team’s offensive line in just his second game. Incredibly valuable to the team’s offense, Matthews eventually played every position along the Oilers/Titans offensive line during his long career. He made his most starts at guard (99 on the left side, and 67 as the right guard) and center (87). He also started 22 games as the team’s right tackle and 17 at left tackle.
The Oilers suffered through some dismal seasons early in Matthews’ career that included back-to-back 2-14 records during his first two NFL seasons. The team steadily improved with Matthews helping solidify the offense and the Oilers reached the playoffs by 1987. It marked the first of seven straight postseason trips for Matthews and the Oilers. Two more playoff seasons came after the team relocated to Tennessee. In 1999, the Titans were crowned AFC champions and advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV where they narrowly lost to the St. Louis Rams.
As the team’s fortunes improved, the accolades came in great numbers for Matthews. Beginning in 1988 and continuing through his final year, he was selected to the Pro Bowl each and every season. His 14 consecutive Pro Bowls (9 at guard, 5 at center) tied Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen for the most ever.
Matthews was also named first-team All-Pro nine times (1988-1993, 1998-2000) and All-AFC 12 seasons (1988-1993, 1995-2000). He was selected as a guard on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.