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January 3, 2012

For some, football is the family business

MORE ARMY: Full coverage | Live blog | Week preview

SAN ANTONIO - Mike Matthews just chuckled - as he's done hundreds of times before when the question was asked.

"I knew someone was going to ask me that," the son of NFL legend Bruce Matthews said. "It was the very first question of my very first interview when I was a freshman in high school."

How could it not be?

When you're the son of an NFL Hall of Famer, everyone wants to know: What it's like? Does it give you an advantage? Do you get professional coaching?

And, of course, what other famous athletes have you met?

That's the way it was for Barry Sanders. His first interview wasn't about his Hall of Fame father, but about the famous person his famous father introduced him to.

"They wanted to know what it was like to meet Michael Jordan," Sanders said.

The players are obviously stars in their own right - they have to be to get an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. But the four players here with NFL fathers understand the deal. At each level of their respective athletic careers, they'll have to explain a relationship that to them is no big deal.

"I just tell people he's a cool dude and we like spending time together," Sanders said.

Fellow All-Americans Darius Hamilton of Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep (son of former New York Giants DE/DT Keith Hamilton) and Zeke Pike of Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights (son of former Buffalo Bills DE/LB Mark Pike) face the same questions.

For Matthews, an offensive lineman from Fort Bend (Texas) Elkins, the queries go far beyond his father.

His family tree is as big as a football field.

His uncle, Clay Matthews, played 19 years in the NFL. His grandfather, Clay Matthews, Sr., played in the NFL, too. Want more? His brother (Titans center Kevin Matthews) and two cousins (linebackers Casey Matthews of the Eagles and Clay Matthews of the Packers) are currently in the NFL. And when he heads to Texas A&M next fall, he'll be the second member of the family playing major college ball, joining his brother Jake in College Station.

"It just a passion we have in our family," Matthews said.

And getting questions about being in the family is something family members talk about. His opinion? Mike Matthews said it's good and bad.

The lineage helps, he said, but it also pushes the bar for success higher.

"I wouldn't say it would be a disappointment if I didn't make this game, but it was something I really wanted to do," Matthews said.

On the other hand, while so many kids here talk about the increased competition and feeling pressure to perform, this week is just another week in the life of a Matthews.

Mike Matthews is just another branch on the football family tree. And he says the best may be yet to come.

His younger brother, Luke, already is 5-5, 220 pounds. And he's only in the sixth grade.

"He's going to be like 6-8," Mike Matthews said. "He's going to be huge."

And he's going to get plenty of questions about his family.



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