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Cliff Matthews takes SC training to the NFL Combine

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"If I had another year I would take it." These are the words of senior defensive end Cliff Matthews as we sat in my office reminiscing about his time at South Carolina. "I'll miss 2001. Running out the tunnel, 80,000 plus fans screaming, hair standing up on your arms, there's no feeling like it. I'd love to run out the tunnel one more time, wish I would've redshirted [laughing]."

One of the team's captains in 2010, Matthews continues to be a leader for the team even though his playing days with the Gamecocks are over. Since the season ended Matthews has been continuing to work out and prepare for the NFL here on campus with teammates. He heads to Indianapolis Friday morning to participate in the NFL Combine along with five other SC players: Ladi Ajiboye, Garrett Chisolm, Chris Culliver, Tori Gurley, and Jarriel King. To prepare, he has been working out daily with Director of Football Strength & Conditioning Craig Fitzgerald, known by most around here simply as Coach Fitz, and his staff. Balancing training with finishing up school (Matthews is on track to graduate in May with his degree in Criminal Justice) creates a hectic week.

"My schedule is kind of crazy right now, a little different each day," says Matthews. "Mondays and Wednesdays I have three classes. I work out every morning. I come back during my lunch to get some extra work, regenerating in the cold tub and hot tub and a lot of stretching. Go back and finish up class, go to the Dodie to do homework, then go back later at night and get some more cardio in."

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Many college football players with their sights on the NFL choose to prepare at various professional training facilities around the country, which is a great option for some, but Matthews chose to stay at Carolina. "I interviewed a couple agents and they showed me where they wanted me to train. I got a feel for what they were doing and everything they were doing, we do here. It's even better here because you have people that care about you and want you to do well. Another reason was being able to stay in school and actually finish."

After the NFL Combine this weekend Matthews plans to continue working out, including participating in Carolina's Pro Day at the end of March, and practicing throughout the spring as the NFL Draft approaches at the end of April. No matter his schedule, he still plans to participate in commencement ceremonies in May. "Oh, I'm going to walk," Matthews says emphatically. "I've been here four years, I'm going to walk. That means something."

Finishing school may end up even more important as Matthews and NFL hopefuls around the country await the collective bargaining agreement negotiations currently ongoing with the NFL and NFL Players Association. Without a new CBA or an extension of the current CBA before March 4th, a lockout would result - which could mean no NFL football next season. Although the April draft would continue as planned, with a lockout in place there would be no off-season mini camps and no opportunities for undrafted players to sign free agent contracts.

Though he is projected by various websites and supposed experts to be drafted anywhere from the 3rd to the 5th round of the draft, Matthews says he doesn't pay a lot of attention to projections, saying wherever he ends up, with whatever team, that will be his team and who he will work hard for. "I spoke with Eric Norwood, Lem Jeanpierre and a couple of other guys [about preparing for the draft]. They told me to just 'do your thing'. Don't try to overdo it, just be you, be yourself. The rest will take care of itself."

Good luck to Cliff and all the Gamecocks participating in the NFL Combine this weekend. We're rooting for you!




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Go Gamecocks!

- Brittany Lane





























Showing off the SEC Eastern Division Championship trophy

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oh my! my favorite SC team! go go go!

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