Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews – More Alike than Different?

With his former USC teammate Brian Cushing earning an NFL suspension for using a banned substance, the whispers have started again about Clay Matthews. And lets be honest,  it’s understandable. One look at Matthews’ physique, after all the “skinny kid” stories, is enough.   But should we suspect Clay Matthews? Is he guilty by association? Of course not.  There are, however,  a lot of similarities in their stories and how they transformed themselves from scrawny kids to muscle-bound NFL warriors.

Brian Cushing was a multi-sport athlete, but in high school, he decided to focus on football after his freshman year. He hit the weight room hard and came back a much bigger player his sophomore year. The change was so dramatic, there were many whispers of steroid use from NJ high school football observers. Yet speak to anyone close to him, and they would emphatically defend him as an honest and incredibly self-motivated kid that would never cheat.

He accomplished the feat by hard work in the weight room, we were told. His development continued at USC, and those closest to Cushing came out publicly to defend him. Videos of Cushing working out were published on the internet:

His high school coach and personal trainer stood by him and still do, even after the recent developments. From an article written by Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record, a local NJ newspaper:

“This is being handled by his agent and his attorney so I’m not at liberty to speak about it, but I will say this, I support Brian Cushing a hundred percent,” said Fred Stengel, Cushing’s coach at Bergen Catholic High School.”

“I talked to him [Friday] night and people are going to believe what they believe, but I’m behind closed doors with him and on my family, I will go to the death and say he doesn’t take steroids,” says Joe DeFranco, who began training Cushing when he was a junior in high school, guided him through preparation for the NFL combine and continues to work with Cushing in the NFL’s off-season.”

In a public statement, Cushing has explained his version of the situation. “I was substance-tested randomly by the NFL during the 2009 season. The results of those tests indicated the presence of a non-steroidal banned substance.” That substance is believed to be a single elevated hormone level, which led Cushing’s camp to file an appeal.

In her article, Sullivan goes on to write, “As quickly as Cushing would like to move forward, it won’t be easy. This is his reality now, a résumé permanently stained by a failed test. There will be no simple way of washing away the doubt, no way for him to silence the notion he cheated himself and the game. For those who believed all along he was juicing, they now have proof; for those who remain solidly in Cushing’s corner, there is the grim acceptance of loss in the court of public opinion.”

Cushing should learn from the example of Andy Pettite and even Alex Rodriguez; come clean, tell everyone what you took, why you took it, how many times you took it, just tell it all. Fans will forgive and forget – it’s already happened in NY for those two players.

But what about Clay Matthews? He has a similar back  story.  We’ve all read about his physical transformation. In high school, his own father (also his coach) wouldn’t start him as a junior. Even after a growth spurt, hitting the weight room, and having a good senior year, major colleges weren’t interested.

His father tried to convince him to go to a small school where he could play, but Clay insisted on going to USC and trying out as a walk-on. Pete Carrol kept him on mainly out of respect to his USC-alumni father and brother.

“I thought it was intriguing,” USC coach Pete Carroll says of Matthews’ arrival, “He had that big family background here. So I thought, ‘OK, is there some magic in here somehow?’ But I didn’t see it. He just looked like a nice, hardworking kid who was undersized, just not physically able to match up.”

His teammate, Rey Maualuga says of him, “I just remember how little he was. But he was always in the weight room three times more than anybody else.” Indeed, as Matthews was named USC’s top weightlifter on the team three times.

Against all logic, Matthews was confident he could succeed at USC, home of five-star prospects and blue-chip players. “I knew if I came to USC and they gave me a shot, that I could play”, says Matthews, “I also knew if I was going to hang with these guys, I’d have to work really hard and be really persistent. I just kept working and working and getting bigger and faster and better. I knew I was capable of playing with the best athletes in the nation. Maybe I was crazy to have that mind-set, but obviously that’s better than saying you can’t.”

So the underlying theme we’ve been told is the same:  Success achieved by honest hard work, desire, self-motivation and a will to succeed.

Yet the whispers persisted; that type of physical transformation is not possible by normal means. Throw in the false reports of a failed drug test at the NFL Combine for both Cushing and Matthews, and a lot of assumptions can easily be made.

But of course, assumptions mean nothing. While many parallels can be drawn between the Cushing and Matthews success stories, and it’s fair to say they are more alike than different, we simply can not and should not extrapolate into the unknown. Matthews got to where he is physically by outworking everyone in the weight room;  I’ll stick with that belief until proven otherwise.


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Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.


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29 Responses to “Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews – More Alike than Different?”

  1. [...] Jersey Al has more on Cushing and Matthews. [...]

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  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jersey Al – Packers . Jersey Al – Packers said: Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews – More Alike than Different? http://www.jerseyal.com/GBP/?p=465 #Packers #GoPack [...]

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  3. Max says:

    I have to think that Ted Thompson did his homework with Clay Matthews. I just don’t see Ted drafting a guy, especially in the first round, who might be using steroids.

    I agree with you on this one, Al. We have to believe that CM3 is clean until it is proven otherwise.

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  4. John Rehor John Rehor says:

    I agree with Max’s comment-Thompson had to have done his homework on Matthews before trading up to take him in the first. No reason to think he would have gambled and taken someone who wasn’t legit.

    Matthews and Cushing are both individuals, and there is no reason to think they both participate in the same things. CM3 looks like a “hard work will pay off” guy, and I will not believe anything theories about him until they are proven.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I’m sure Houston did their homework on Cushing – but there just no way to really know. I agree though, I’m staying positive (pun intended) until a drug test comes up anything other than negative.

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  5. PackersRS says:

    Innocent till proven otherwise.

    We’ll really know if Cushing was taking roids after his suspension. If his productivity declines, if he’s not as strong/fast, we’ll all know why.

    I believe the same can be said about CM3. If he does not perform like he did last year, I’d assume he quit the juice…

    BTW, maybe, just maybe, Hawk has done and quit steroids. He was so fast and strong coming out of college, played very well his rookie year, and now seems slow and weak…

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Your Hawk observation is a good one and it has crossed my mind before – thanks for reminding me of that.

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      • Jeremey says:

        Does NCAA and College schools not drug test??

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          They certainly do, From the NCAA website:

          Year-round testing was instituted in 1990. Any Division I or Division II student-athlete may be tested for training drugs such as anabolic steroids. About 10,500 student-athletes will be randomly selected from squad lists and tested by the NCAA on their campuses August through June. The year-round program tests for steroids, masking agents and ephedrine.

          Summer testing began in 2006. For more information about this program, visit the 2006 Drug Test Q and A.

          Division III started a drug education and testing pilot program in 2007. About 120 Division III schools will participate in the pilot. More information can be found at our Division III drug education homepage.

          The NCAA bans drugs in the categories of stimulants, anabolic agents, substances banned for specific sports, diuretics, street drugs, peptide hormones and analogues, and anti-estrogens.

          The list of banned drug classes can be found in Bylaw 31 of the NCAA Manual, and the list with examples in each class can be found on the NCAA Web site at our Drug-Testing Program Web Page

          The NCAA’s list of banned drug classes is far more extensive than those substances banned under federal law.

          Sanctions from a positive drug test are swift and automatic. After the first positive test, a student-athlete cannot compete in any intercollegiate sport for one year and loses one of four years of eligibility. After the second positive test, a student-athlete loses all remaining eligibility and is permanently banned from intercollegiate competition.

          Here’s the URL: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaahome?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/ncaa/media+and+events/press+room/current+issues/drug+testing

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  6. This is just conjecture, but many sports athletes are using anabolic steroids not because they want to increase muscle mass or gain strength, but to bounce back from injury faster, and Cushing has had injury issues starting back at USC. Cushing states that it wasn’t a anabolic steroid, but perhaps it was HGH or something to cover up HGH, which again athletes often take to recover faster from injury.

    On a completely different note, I should mention that every player technically takes steroids; in fact every human being does on a daily basis. It’s called cholesterol :D

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      It is conjecture, but most likely you are correct. It could even be a supplement that just had more in it than advertised on the label. There are a lot of possibilities, but the injury recovery angle probably makes the most sense.

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  7. Ron LC says:

    I’ll be concerned about this when, and only when, a positive test of CM3 is publicized. Seeing as though the test in question for Cushing was done in Sept. 09′, I have to assume that, as a rookie, CM3 was also tested more than once last year. No results yet would seem to indicate nothing has been reported.

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  8. MJ Kasprzak says:

    One reason I was not fond of the pick of Matthews is I suspected him of steroid use, and didn’t want to see another fizzle out like Tony Man-I’m-rich. (And I never give a crap about people coming out in a guy’s defense—they are biased and never credible.) But I did like the aggressive move by a normally conservative Thompson, and I certainly stopped questioning things once I saw Matthews’ production. If he does not test positive as a Packer, there’s not much that can be said or done…if he does, maybe we can get a favourable court decision like the Williamses did in Minnesota.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I’m curious why you like to use the British (or Canadien?) spelling for some words – like “favourite.”

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  9. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    As Thomas Hobbes said,”everybody takes steriods on a daily basis,Cholesterol” true but the quantity is the question,normal intake by accident or more out of desire.

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    • I’m pretty sure no athlete would get suspended for taking too much cholesterol; you can argue that it was the reasoning behind JaMarcus Russell being cut, but he’s not going to bet suspended for it.

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  10. Graham says:

    So thompson did his homework and the texans didnt? Not likely. Innocent untill prooven guilty is the American way. That is where I stand.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:


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    • Well, more likely is that the Texans knew and decided to gamble. I dunno if Thompson would think this far back, but you would have to assume that the Packers would be super cautious about anabolic steroids after Tony Mandrich.

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    • PackersRS says:

      Yes, the most likely scenario is that they knew there were “accusations” of PED use, but no affirmative, and that they simply trusted Cushing’s words.

      But we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that all GMs work as hard as TT. I can’t affirm that every NFL team actually knows what they’re doing. Remember, 8 years, and they’ve never been in the playoffs…

      Yes, I know, the information is much easier to get than it was 20 years ago. And that not every team acts like the Raiders, where they don’t have computers in their war room. But still…

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  11. LogicalThinker says:

    lol everyone keeps bringing up tests…what if it was an untestable substance? there are plenty of them out there. And if anyone knows where to get it, it would be someone with relatives that were greats during the steroid era…

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  12. Jacob says:

    Just because someone had a massive growth spurt in muscle doesnt mean they did steroids. You watch Clay and you see that hard work, and the hustle and how he’s always on the pile. Muscle or no muscle, the man is a damn good football player. Plus, as is shown, he was top weightlifter 3 times. That shows something. I personally play football and i know muscle comes in a large amount after a long wait. Sometimes some people get their “muscle spurts” pretty late in life. Besides, you have to look at the matthews history and future. The Matthews have been in the NFL non-stop since before my father was born. All of them were big guys. And casey Matthews, who was drafted by the eagles, is the same way. Big guy, great hustle, great football player.

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  15. claymathewsisguiltyofjuicing says:

    You people are so naive at believing this guy is natural. I’m a user and have used gear for years. I know one when I see one. Mathews natural? Haha. What a joke! But hey, he works hard and you can’t take that away from him. I’m not against gear usage, but believing he’s natural? Absolutely not.

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