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Clay Matthews: The kid, the game, the tech

By: Eric Wilkens
The Green Bay Packers star linebacker embraces technology every step (and tackle) of the way.
Clay Matthews in football uniform

Photo Credit: Matt Patterson via AP

The little boy is lifted by his father from his first-row seat onto the soggy and torn field.

Eighty-one thousand fans stream to the exits.

The boy was content for the past 60 minutes eating pizza, drinking soda, and laughing with his siblings. He hardly noticed his father battling on the football field.

But now is the time for fun.

Running to midfield, he tackles his siblings and struggles to wrap his hand around the ball as they emulate the athletes that just played the game. They are surrounded by thousands of divots from goalpost to goalpost. The children glance around the stadium and see countless hotdog wrappers, beverage cans and empty popcorn boxes lining the bleachers.

After tiring themselves out while their father took post-game interviews, the children seek their father in the locker room where they chase after exhausted players. They ask the players for their used cleats and tape that bandages the players’ jammed fingers together.

When their father is done cleaning up, the children exit the stadium with an armful of cleats and balls of tape that they bring home, much to the dismay of their mother.

Such was the childhood of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews III.

Connecting with technology

Matthews stares intently at a tablet with his finger hovering over the screen. He quickly taps the device to rewind the tape he just watched. He repeats this process several times until he absorbs what he just took in.

“Football is such a physical game,” he begins. “But the preparation and mental aspect of the sport is essential. We use these to watch all 31 teams, reviewing game film, practice film, cut-ups, and scouting. We’re trying to implement the game plan for that week and understand the defense.”

Matthews is going into his ninth year in the NFL. His illustrious career so far includes being a 6-time Pro Bowl player, an All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion.

For eight Sundays each season, he arrives at Lambeau Field to leave everything on the field. The game is the culmination of another week of practice, a long grind of the “roller coaster of the season” where he’s able to “go out for 60 minutes and put everything else behind you.”

The week leading to Sunday is all about preparation. In addition to their drills at practice, Matthews and his teammates use GPS tracking and heart rate monitors to track their vitals and conditioning.

Clay Matthews in locker room

Clay Matthews says that while football is a physical game, the preparation and mental aspect of the game are essential. Photo credit: 

“It’s easy to think that we had a good practice, but by using the GPS, we’re able to go back and look at the data and determine if we’re actually putting the work in for the week ahead,” Matthews said.

“Coaches are also able to review the data so they know when to go harder or softer on us in practice. It’s really about quality not quantity, and that translates into the game in which case players feel fresher and can better understand and plan for their body to peak heading into a game.”

Beyond his tablet, Matthews’ use of technology off-the-field is expansive. His Philips Hue Bulb turns his home lights on and off when he’s at practice, he’s able to lock his home doors with his phone with his Kwikset Kevo lock, and he’s able to make sure his home is safe with the Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera.

Connecting with family

More than 2,100 miles separate Matthews from his home in Green Bay to his family in southern California.

Despite the distance, the family is able to stay in touch.

“It’s amazing to have the ability to FaceTime or video chat with my family if they miss a game or want to see the grandkids,” he explained. “My father and I speak a lot because he shares wisdom with me based on years of his own playing experience. Technology doesn’t just let me stay in touch with my family, but it has the added benefit of affecting and helping my career, as well.”

Matthews comes from football royalty, a third-generation professional football player that features uncles, siblings, and other family members. For Matthews, his father serves as his greatest influence and inspiration.

“I always wanted to be just like him both on and off the field,” Matthews explained. “Because I watched him and what he went through during his career and learned how to be a true professional, I fortunately learned from the best. I felt very prepared coming into the NFL since I was able to learn valuable lessons from my father and family about what it meant to be a professional in the league.”

Looking at how technology has evolved, it’s astonishing to see the use cases for players professionally and personally.

With technology constantly changing, though, Matthews said it’s important to maintain that professionalism online and, in particular, on social media.

“It’s such a different time from when some of my family was in the league,” Matthews said. “That connection with technology today is so much stronger than it was just a few years ago and having a community with fans and followers is right at your fingertips.”

Matthews explained that being a professional involves knowing what goes out on social media. He explained that when someone is young, they don’t necessarily realize the implications that technology can have. At the same time, social media can be used in a positive manner, as well, whether it is bringing awareness to certain issues or contributing to a charitable organization. 

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Giving back with tech

Major life moments often signify a new beginning.

For Matthews, the Packers’ Super Bowl victory in 2010 did just that. 

“I was on such a massive stage after our win and I felt I needed to do something,” he said.

Clay Matthews in locker room

Matthews explained that being a professional involves knowing what goes out on social media.  Photo credit:

Matthews teamed up with CureDuchenne, an organization dedicated to research, patient care and innovation for improving and extending the lives of those with Duchenne, the most common and most severe form of muscular dystrophies in children, according to their website.

“It’s incredible to meet the children in the program,” he explained. “They personally thank you for being a voice for them because often they don’t have one. Since I’ve started, we’ve now been able to be part of important clinical trials.”

Giving back to CureDuchenne and advocating for technology being used for social good are important parts of Matthews’ life. He explains that technology doesn’t only help spread awareness for certain causes and goals, but it serves as a way to crowdsource for donations for certain causes.

“Certain online websites advocate being able to donate part of a purchase to a charity, which I do for CureDuchenne,” he said. “It’s only a few cents at a time, but if you add it up between many people donating to that same charity, it’s that type of technology that allows you to give back in meaningful ways and bring awareness to certain initiatives.”

Connecting with the game

Matthews arrives at the field on Sunday mornings before thousands of fans tailgate on the lawns and driveways of the neighbors adjacent to Lambeau Field. He dresses in the locker room and completes his pre-game routine of stretching, reviewing game film, and talking with coaches and teammates.

It’s not until he runs through the tunnel onto the field that the feeling hits him.

“It’s that boost of adrenaline that you get running out of the tunnel,” he said. Matthews shifts his eyes, stares away and remembers the Sundays in his career.

He smiles.

“When you see the fans’ painted and screaming faces, the opposition on the sideline, the blaring music and the pyrotechnics, it puts what you’re doing and why you’re doing it into perspective. It’s such a remarkable feeling.”

That feeling is what fueled Matthews from his childhood games to his professional career. The irony is not lost on Matthews; he has come full circle.

He no longer tackles his siblings on the field after the game, but instead stares down offensive playmakers during the game. Rather than sitting in the first row watching the game, he now leads the charge of his teammates out of the tunnel.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate with my career so far,” Matthews said. “Looking at how technology has evolved, it’s astonishing to see the use cases for players professionally and personally. It’s incredible to see how integral it is to our daily lives.” 

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About the author(s): 

Eric Wilkens is on the external communications team at Verizon. He is focused on next-generation public relations, brand storytelling, and digital campaigns. His background includes technology, broadcast, and higher education.