Clay Matthews, the Super Bowl-winning linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, became a part of the rare disease community almost by chance. His first exposure to Duchenne, a rare muscle degeneration disease that affects boys, was for a CureDuchenne PSA that he lent his likeness to. That year happened to be the year Matthews and his team won the Super Bowl.
The win meant the PSA received plenty of airtime, and Duchenne gained significant awareness. In the months that followed, Matthews found himself drawn into a tight-knit community that was searching for a cure.
“That was just the beginning,” says Matthews. It wasn’t until I started going to some of CureDuchenne’s galas and charity events that I got to know some of the children that were affected. The conversations with some of the kids and their parents… It all turned out to be so much more.”
Entering the fold
From charity galas to golf outings to inviting the kids to come see Lambeau Field, Clay Matthews is now synonymous with the fight against Duchenne.
“I can be their physical manifestation… I can represent strength for them,” Matthews explains. “Your platform is something that comes secondarily to what you do on the field. If you learn how to use that, it can be truly special … We’re placed in a position where we can give back, and to not do so is almost a travesty.”
Matthews has even started his own initiatives within the NFL — namely, the “My Cleats, My Cause” campaign, where he wore two cleats customize-made with submitted designs by boys with Duchenne. “They were loud, and that’s what I liked about them,” he says. “A lot of people were asking questions.”
Matthews hopes to inspire others with platforms like his to use their power to give back, and he hopes to build on his own progress.
Matthews is a testament to how awareness can inspire progress. “When I joined forces with CureDuchenne, this was a relatively unknown disease,” he says. “But we’re at the point now where there are human clinical trials, and the symptoms of this disease are being checked.”