15 Star Athletes Who Had to Walk On to Their College Teams

These pro athletes are stars now, but they had to work their way to the top.

Clay Matthews III

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Clay Matthews III

Clay Matthews III comes from a long line of football excellence.

His grandfather, Clay Matthews Sr., played tackle in the NFL in the 1950s. His dad, Clay Matthews Jr., was a Pro Bowl linebacker during the 1980s.

It may be hard to believe now that Matthews III sports some of the beefiest biceps in the NFL, but he was a relative pipsqueak during his days at Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, California).

Though his father was the team's defensive coordinator, he did not start his son because he was so undersized.

Matthews III only received interest from FCS and community colleges coming out of high school, but he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father (who starred at USC before playing 19 seasons in the NFL) by attending the University of Southern California. 

USC did not recruit Matthews, so he had no choice but to walk on.

Matthews spent two years on the scout team before finally earning a scholarship prior to the 2006 season. He went on to become a great special teams performer and had a strong senior season. 

Drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Matthews now has six Pro Bowl appearances to his name. 

He also isn't so little anymore, as Matthews is now listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds.

"I don't think I'd be in the position I'm at today if it weren't for all the setbacks and whatnot, people telling me I couldn't do it," Matthews once told Boston.com. "It's kind of what drives me to be great."