Hard work paying off for Oregon's Matthews

2010-12-01T22:30:00Z Hard work paying off for Oregon's MatthewsBy Jesse Sowa, for the Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
December 01, 2010 10:30 pm  • 

EUGENE - Casey Matthews wanted to make his last collegiate offseason his best, no matter what it took.

After all, this was his last time around, in an Oregon uniform anyway.

The senior middle linebacker joined many of his teammates in those workouts, organized and run by Jim Radcliffe, the Ducks' strength and conditioning coach.

"During the summer, you really don't think this hard work is going to pay off," Matthews said. "You go out there and do what coach Rad has you do.

"He has a plan. You've got to put all your trust in him and know it will pay off in the long run."

It has, and Matthews is no exception. Earlier this week he was named one of four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

The national award is given to a college football player. IMPACT stands for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. Matthews is the first Oregon finalist for the seventh-year award. Former defensive end Nick Reed was a semifinalist in 2008.

The economics major and three-year starter is also a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in the country.

"He's a very intuitive player. He has great instincts," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of Matthews. "He's very durable. He always plays, he always practices.

"He works really hard, not only in the weight room and the practice field, but in the classroom."

Matthews, from Agoura Hills, Calif., says it's "special" to be considered for national awards. But he said he believed it's also a result of playing for a top-ranked team.

"We're finally getting recognition up here," Matthews said. "I think it's mostly the success of the team and more exposure."

Matthews enters Saturday's 114th Civil War leading the Ducks with 68 tackles.

The son of 19-year NFL veteran Clay Matthews, he's also the Pac-10's co-leader and tied for fourth in the country with three fumble recoveries. He also has 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three interceptions.

Matthews has helped Oregon rank second in the conference in scoring defense (18.3 points per game) and rush defense (120.1 yards) and third in total defense (332.7 yards).

A second team all-conference selection last season, he is widely considered a late-round prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft.

"Casey is just working like he always does. The details, doing all the little things," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "He's a self-made guy and he works at everything he does in his life.

"With all those motivational factors ahead of him, I think he's done whatever he can to put himself in the best situation."

When it comes to leadership, Matthews does it more by example. His numbers also speak volumes.

"He lets his actions talk for him, which is the best leader in my opinion," Kelly said. There's a lot of guys, not on this team, that talk about it but don't do it. He does it.

"He's really just a special player."

Aliotti says the most Matthews every talks is when he's getting teammates in the right positions for an upcoming play. If he needs to say something, he does.

"I like the guys that lead by example," Aliotti said. "But I also like that if you're leading by example you can talk a little. That helps, too."

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