Three years later, the Packers still haven't found a serviceable sidekick to Matthews. Entering the 2012 draft, the Packers have taken a keen interest in a player seemingly a million miles away from Matthews in terms of pedigree and school.
Prairie View A&M's Adrian Hamilton, however, sees some similarities between himself and the quarterback-sacking, shampoo-hawking Matthews.
"Basically, he was an underdog because he wasn't a big-name person coming out of USC but has been able to outshine all the other players who were picked in front of him," Hamilton told Packer Report this week.
Matthews was undersized walk-on at USC who didn't get into the starting lineup until early in his senior season. Hamilton's story really isn't all that different. Prairie View was his third football program, and it wasn't until a breakout senior season that he popped onto scouts' radars.
After a standout career at Dallas Carter High School, Hamilton elected to play at Oklahoma State. However, the coaches there wanted to grayshirt him – a fact they didn't bother to tell him until a week before his arrival, Hamilton said. From there, he went to Texas Tech, getting one sack in six games in 2007.
"I was a preferred walk-on," Hamilton said of Texas Tech. "I played some games that year and they saw something in me so they said they were going to give me a scholarship. That spring, I went through the process and they kept telling me that we're starting to get money in and things were going to work out for me to get a scholarship so I'd be able to pay for housing in school, but it just didn't pan out. I couldn't afford school so I had to sit out."
Having to pay his way through a year at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, Hamilton enrolled at hometown Dallas Community College, where he spent a year as a student instead of student-athlete.
"I had to get my mind ready for my next shot because that would probably be my last shot," he said.
Hamilton considered going to Houston or Texas A&M but, at the suggestion of one of his professors at Dallas Community College, he went to Prairie View. During his first season, Hamilton showed a flash of his potential with 5.5 sacks. Entering his senior season, he boldly predicted he would break the SWAC's single-season sack record of 20 held by Robert Mathis, a Pro Bowl player for the Indianapolis Colts.
"My coach, Gabe Northern (a former NFL player), he always said to set your aspirations high," Hamilton recalled. "If I would have fell short, 19 would have been a great number. Just watching Robert Mathis and other guys who reached that pinnacle, I wanted to be one of the best to ever play in that conference."
Hamilton did just that, with his 20.5 sacks leading the Football Championship Subdivision and his 26 tackles for losses ranking second.
"I kept faith," Hamilton said of his winding road to stardom. "I had talent in me so I just needed that opportunity. It kept evading me but I finally captured it. My coaches put me in great positions and things just fell in my lap."
Hamilton received a congratulatory call from Mathis, and he was selected to play in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game. After a productive week of practice in front of scouts, he answered some of his doubters by notching two sacks in the game.
"I was getting frustrated with all the negativity," he said. "I just didn't agree with some of the negativity that I read and I wanted to show them that I can play with top-end talent. I tried to show that at the all-star game."
Hamilton's stock is rising but the road blocks keep coming. Prairie View's pro day was scheduled for Wednesday at a nearby high school, but when the players and scouts arrived, the field was being used for a soccer game. So, testing and drills were conducted on a soccer practice field. The grass was long and wet – a far cry from the perfectly manicured grass or FieldTurf used by prospects at most schools. Hamilton's 40-yard time of 4.77 wasn't bad but it wasn't great. However, his 10-yard time of 1.55 was just 0.01 slower than the best defensive lineman/linebacker testing on the FieldTurf at the Scouting Combine last month, which was West Virginia's 245-pound Bruce Irvin.
In a month, Hamilton's perseverance finally will pay off. He'll arrive with a chip on his shoulder for scholarships not given and a burning desire to show his production simply wasn't because he lined up against inferior talent most Saturdays.
"You have to have that," he said. "Coming from a small school, everybody's basically walking over you. As an athlete, you can't let that happen."
He won't be a first-round pick like Matthews but he'll get drafted. Maybe even by Green Bay, where he'd get to watch Matthews, whom he admires for his intensity and footwork.
"It will be a great feeling but I know it doesn't end there," Hamilton said. "It's just the beginning. Hearing my name called will be a great accomplishment, a great feeling. But I want to come into the NFL and make an impact somehow, someway – maybe it'll be special teams, maybe it'll be pass rushing. That would be a great feeling."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.