A tough week for the Georgia Bulldogs’ football family

Georgia football-game time-tv network-South Carolina-Week 3-Samford

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Clayton Matthews, who starred for Oconee County High School’s state championship football team in 1999, died. He was 40. This past weekend, former Georgia tight end Kirk Warner died after a short illness. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS — Clayton Matthews, who starred for Oconee County High School’s state championship football team in 1999, died. He was 40.

The son of former Georgia linebackers coach Mickey Matthews, Clayton had experienced health issues since twice breaking his neck in separate car accidents over a nine-month span while attending James Madison on a football scholarship in 2003-04. Matthews’ father was head coach of the Dukes at the time.

His sister, Meredith Wells, said on social media Clayton died of a stroke.

“He has gained his angel wings and joins our loved ones who watch over us,” Wells wrote. “This was very sudden and we’re all heartbroken.”

Clayton Matthews’ death continues a tough week for the Georgia football family. This past weekend, former Georgia tight end Kirk Warner died after a short illness.

Combined ShapeCaption
Clayton Matthews, son of former Georgia assistant coach Mickey Matthews.

Credit: Photo

Clayton Matthews, son of former Georgia assistant coach Mickey Matthews.

Credit: Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Clayton Matthews, son of former Georgia assistant coach Mickey Matthews.

Credit: Photo

Credit: Photo

Warner had 50 receptions for 733 yards and four touchdowns in his college career. He had a team-leading 30 receptions for 404 yards as a senior on Georgia’s 1989 team, the first under coach Ray Goff. Warner spent the last 20 seasons as the head coach at Liberty County High School, where he coached NFL players Raekwon McMillan, an All-American at Ohio State, and Richard LeCounte, a star safety at Georgia.

Clayton Matthews had been wheelchair-bound since his first car accident in August 2003 in Harrisonburg, Va. The second accident occurred nine months later as his mother was driving him to a doctor’s appointment. Before that, Matthews played quarterback, receiver, punter and placekicker at JMU.

At Oconee County High, he starred as a quarterback and led the Warriors to a 15-0 record and Class AAA state title as a junior. He concluded his high school career at Spotswood High in Penn Laird, Va., after his father took the JMU job.

Mickey Matthews had worked with Jim Donnan at Marshall before following him to UGA to coach the Bulldogs’ linebackers.

On a football field, Clayton Matthews could do it all. His first two seasons at James Madison, he completed 24 of 53 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns, had a 10-yard reception, left opponents inside their 20-yard line after seven of his 12 punts and kicked two extra points.

After the accidents, Clayton worked for his father as an assistant coach at James Madison for many years and recruited the Atlanta area. Mickey Matthews coached the Dukes from 1999-2013, compiling a record of 109–71 and leading them to the Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship in 2004, the same year his son was injured.

“He was a good boy, just seemed to always draw the black bean,” Mickey Matthews said via text message. “His first 20 years, he was the chosen one. The last 20 were a struggle.”

Since stepping away from football, Matthews and his father had been operating a doughnut shop in Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va.