Super Bowl hero Clay Matthews and fellow NFL player Joey LaRocque were honored just before Friday night’s homecoming game at which the Chargers beat Calabasas with a score of 24-17. Both athletes were presented with their Charger uniform jerseys in huge glass casings before a cheering crowd.
“It’s fantastic,” said Matthews, a Green Bay Packers’ star linebacker before the brief ceremony. “To be honored in this manner. It’s a great deal and obviously this is where it all started, at Agoura High School.”
Matthews and LaRocque, who graduated from Agoura in 2004, went on to college careers that were stirring journeys. Matthews had no scholarship when he arrived at USC, was red-shirted his freshman year, and didn’t become a mainstay in the Trojans defense until his junior year.
“It’s not your typical college career in the fact that I had to walk on and kind of scratch and claw for everything,” he said. “But it all worked out. It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.”
LaRocque, also a linebacker, had an even more unlikely route to the Pac 10. After playing at College of Canyons, a junior college, LaRocque played at Oregon State, where he and Matthews finally had a chance to play against each other after having been teammates from youth football forward.
“We played against each other twice,” LaRocque said. “We had a good time. It was a pretty big battle–on special teams at that point in his career and mine.”
“It was fun,” said Matthews. “Obviously we had always played on the same teams at the same school in the same area. But to go against each other a few times, it was good. I made sure to take some cheap shots on him, and I’m sure he got some back (at me) as well.”
LaRocque was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2008 and played in 14 of the team’s 16 games that year. He played for the Omaha Knighthawks in the UFL last year and started this season with the New York Jets. Although he is not currently playing in the NFL, he is optimistic.
“I was with the Jets and made it through final cuts,” he said. “But [now] I’m waiting for a team. I’ve had a couple with interest. Definitely something will happen.”
Matthews won a Super Bowl with the Packers last year after Green Bay went 10-6 during the regular season. This year they are undefeated at 7-0 and are favorites to return to the Super Bowl.
“Right now, we have a pretty good team,” said Matthews, whose Packers have a bye this week. “[And] I’ve had some success individually. But now it’s about staying on top and kind of maintaining that level of success.”
For the current Agoura team, success is measured differently in the hyper-competitive Marmonte League, and when asked how big this first win was, Agoura coach Charlie Wegher responded, “You have no idea.”