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ATQ's "20 in 20": #19 - Casey Matthews

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The little linebacker that could.

Steve Dykes

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kenny Wheaton's cutback into history and the 1994 Rose Bowl team, Addicted to Quack is counting down the top 20 football Ducks of the last 20 years. Our list so far...

20. Walter Thurmond III
19. Casey Matthews

***

We've seen this scenario before in movies all the time: the good guys are losing in the fourth quarter, they don't have the ball, and they need it back now. In the movies, Billy Bob or Bobby Boucher swoop in to block the punt, or Julius Campbell forces the fumble that Petey Jones recovers. In the movies, the good guys get the ball back, score, and win the game.

But that's the movies.

In real life, the bad guys have an unstoppable force at quarterback, a Heisman winner and future #1 draft pick. And all they need him to do is keep being the best player on the field for five more minutes, and the game is over. In real life, the game ends, and the good guys go home knowing they just didn't have enough that day.

But for a brief moment on January 10th, 2011, Casey Matthews decided that reality needed a large dose of cinematic drama.

The final numbers for Matthews are impressive: 245 tackles, 30.5 for a loss; 4 interceptions, and 9 sacks; a second-team All-America selection in 2010, along with a first-team All-Pac-10. But everything you need to know about Casey Matthews boils down to that moment in the BCS Championship Game. Other players would have looked at Cam Newton, shrugged their shoulders, and given up. Of course, other players would have been discouraged after being passed-over by bigger schools as a three-star high school recruit. Other players would have been fine with a minor role on Oregon's defense, instead of working to become the glue and the general of a championship team. Other players wouldn't have made it to the NFL after a sparkling four-year career.

But Casey Matthews decided he'd run down Cam Newton from behind and punch the ball loose instead.