Before Pete Carroll guided the Seattle Seahawks to a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, he was a National Championship winning head coach at the University of Southern California. During his nine years with the Trojans, Carroll saw an incredible number of future NFL players come through his locker room, including Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Reggie Bush.
Still, while Carroll's eye for football talent helped build a juggernaut at USC, some great players on the team fell under his radar. One such player was current Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who Carroll did not start until his senior year.
Most coaches would dismiss such a misstep, but Carroll admitted he misevaluated Matthews, calling it one of the "great mistakes" of his coaching career.
"When Clay came in he was 208 pounds and he didn't run very well. He wasn't very strong, but he loved playing and he tried really hard. Unfortunately, this is one of the great mistakes that I missed in my coaching at SC was how good a player he was," Carroll said Thursday. "I had said going in I think maybe his junior year somebody asked me about Clay Matthews and I said I think he might be one of the best special teamers to every play at USC. He was a great player on [special] teams. I knew I couldn't really validate that, but I was blowing him up because he was a great kid.
"Well, when we got to his senior year, he wasn't starting. He didn't start the first game. I think we were playing Oregon State, and we had some problems. We put him in the game, and said we know Clay will do the right thing. He started playing there, and he's been a great player since the time he was given the opportunity to show it. He was always there banging away. Always there fighting, clawing and scratching."
While it took Matthews some time to build up his body, Carroll appears to admit that the coaching staff should have turned to him earlier in his college career. That kind of honesty is rare in coaching, and even rarer in the NFL.