John McClain: Houston Sports Hall of Fame induction was ‘a night to remember’ for Bruce Matthews and his family

John McClain: Houston Sports Hall of Fame induction was ‘a night to remember’ for Bruce Matthews and his family

Bruce Matthews keeps an inquisitive eye on the Texans’ search for a new head coach, and he knows what it’s like for players to experience the curiosity and apprehension of waiting to find out who their new boss will be and what kind of changes he’ll make.

In his 19-year Pro Football Hall of Fame career, including the first 14 with the Oilers before the franchise moved to Tennessee, Matthews had six head coaches – five full-time and one interim. As an assistant coach with the Texans and Titans, he worked for two more head coaches, so he’s no stranger to change at the most important position in the front office.

After Matthews was honored Wednesday night with his induction into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame with Rockets’ greats Elvin Hayes and Calvin Murphy, he talked about his arrival in Houston as the Oilers’ first-round draft choice and how his career could have gone in a different direction.

In 1983, the Oilers had the second overall pick in the draft. General manager Ladd Herzeg traded that pick to the Rams, who swapped the third overall pick and other considerations. The Rams wanted SMU running back Eric Dickerson, another member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Then Herzeg sent the Seahawks the third pick so they could select Penn State running back Curt Warner.

Because the Oilers had Earl Campbell entering his sixth season, they weren’t interested in Dickerson or Warner. Before the strike-torn 1982 season, Campbell averaged 1,614 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first four seasons. In 1983, before a knee injury suffered a year later would force him to retire at 30, Campbell would rush for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Herzeg’s plan was to stockpile the offensive line with high draft choices to pave the way for Campbell. With the ninth overall pick in 1983, Herzeg selected Matthews, an offensive lineman from USC. Fans and media weren’t excited about the pick because Herzeg had drafted Penn State guard Mike Munchak in the first round of the 1982 draft. It worked out pretty well since both are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Matthews and his fiancé, Carrie, came to Houston the day after the first round to meet with the coaches, members of the organization, and the media. They’d been dating since they were sophomores at USC and were married in May, the month after the draft.

“I’d never been to Houston,” Matthews said. “I grew up in Los Angeles as a Cowboys fan, so I thought it was pretty cool because I figured everybody would be fans of the Cowboys. It took about a week in Houston for me to hate them.”

At the induction ceremony at the Wortham Theater, Matthews was introduced by his seven children – daughters Gwen and Marilyn and sons Stephen, Kevin, Jake, Mike, and Luke.

“Seeing my children in that context made it even more special,” Matthews said. “It was such a great moment in my life to see them on the stage talking about their dad. They were great, and I was so proud. It was a wonderful event. Everyone that put it on did such an incredible job.”

The annual event is put on by the Harris County-Sports Authority, where Janis Burke is the CEO, and Kenny Friedman is chairman of the board. Patti Smith, who left the media world for her current position of vice president of communications, is the creative force behind the event and the brainchild of the Houston Sports Awards and the Houston Sports Hall of Fame. Wednesday’s event will be televised for the first of multiple times on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on AT&T SportsNet.

When making his acceptance speech, Matthews thanked his family, emphasized his faith, and expressed gratitude for being drafted by the Oilers and being able to make Houston their home for the last 40 years.

“Carrie and I have spent the majority of our lives in Houston,” he said. “We were excited about coming here, and we’ve been so blessed. We raised our kids here. They live here. Our grandkids are here. That’s what made this night so special, being able to share it with our family and friends.”

Not to mention fans who remember Matthews’ extraordinary career.

Don Chaney, who had a distinguished career in the NBA as a player and coach, introduced Hayes. Chaney and Hayes met at the University of Houston in 1965 and have been close friends ever since. Chaney pointed out that Hayes missed only nine games in his 16-year career. Talk about durability, Matthews didn’t miss a game in 19 seasons. He also tied an NFL record by being voted to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls and was a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As is his nature, Matthews was humbled to be inducted into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame with Hayes and Murphy, who was introduced by Rudy Tomjanovich.

“It truly was a night to remember for me and my family,” Matthews said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and  Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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