Trojans recognized by Walter Camp Foundation 

In a bright lighted room filled in the Schwarzman Center located on  the campus of YALE University in New Haven, Connecticut was a classic case of ‘Old School’ and ‘New school’.  

Bruce Mathews (L) and Zachariah Branch share a moment at the Walter Camp All-American AwardsDinner in New Haven Connecticut (Photo-Earl Heath)

By Earl Heath | Contributing Sports Writer

In a bright lighted room filled in the Schwarzman Center located on  the campus of YALE University in New Haven, Connecticut was a classic case of ‘Old School’ and ‘New school’.  

Bruce Mathews (Old school) a USC Trojan and Walter Camp All-American in 1982 shared stories with several many honorees including Zachariah Branch (new School) a current Trojan. Both were on hand to receive awards at the Walter Camp Foundation 57th Annual Awards Dinner.   

Mathews was the ‘Man of the Year’ recipient while Branch was named All-American kick-return specialist. The two posed for a photo together and took many more as the night went on. 

“It’s quite an honored It feels good to be here,” said the two-time All-Pac-10 selection. He later went on to become a first round selection the 1983 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers and proceed to play 18 seasons before retiring prior to the 2002 season at age 40.  

Longevity was his calling card-Beginning in 1988 and continuing through his final year, he was selected to the Pro Bowl each and every season.  His 14 consecutive Pro Bowls (9 at guard, 5 at center) tied Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen for the most ever. 

History considers to one of the most versatile offensive lineman to ever play in the NFL.  Matthews was also named first-team All-Pro nine times (1988-1993, 1998-2000) and All-AFC 12 seasons (1988-1993, 1995-2000).  He was selected as a guard on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. 

In 2007, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   His number 74 has been retired by the Tennessee franchise.  In 2020, Matthews was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team as one of the top 100 players of the first 100 years of the NFL. 

I ‘ve had many good choices in my life”, Mathews told the room of 1,600 attendees. “Marrying my wife of 41 year- Carrie. Entering the Pro-football hall of Fame. Of all the achievements the best was accepting my savior Jesus Christ” 

Branch is a freshman who sent shock waves through college football. The 5-10, 180-pound speedster led the nation in punt returns this season, averaging 20.8 yards per return. He finished No. 3 in combined punt and kickoff return yards, with 774. Branch also returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns, both coming in the first three games of his college career. The Las Vegas native joined Adore Jackson and Curtis Conway as the only three USC players since at least 1971 with a punt return, kickoff return and receiving touchdown in the same season. He also finished fourth on the team with 31 receptions, totaling 320 yards and two touchdowns.  

He and his brother Zion have just finalized a NON-PROFIT organization that will begin operations in a few months. “We really want to help the homeless population in the City,” said Zachariah. We feel it’s a good way to give back to the community”  

Branch is a standout track man also winning the Nevada Southern 5A Regional champion in the 100m, 200m and long jump as a sophomore, when he ran a 10.33 100m dash and a wind-aided 200m time of 21.01.  

“I have run a 10.3 hundred meters, I think I can get 10.1 or better if I really focus,” is what he told the evenings Emcee Kevin Negandhi of ESPN. 

Player of Year Jayden Daniels (LSU) and Coach of Year Kalen DeBoer (Washington; now at Alabama) were also honored. 

“This is a good honor its nice to be here with so many good players,” said Jalen Greene of James Madison University. The sharp looking D-lineman was fighting adversity as the NCAA would not allow the Dukes to play post season because they had been a D-1 school for two years. 

“I couldn’t understand why they didn’t allow it,” said Green. It was a great moment when we were allowed to go.” 

Green was a force himself collecting 15 sacks in 9 games to help lead The Dukes to number one In the country in rushing defense (61.5), tackles for loss (9.1) and yards per rush allowed (2.09) while ranking second in both sacks (3.75) and blocked punts (2). JMU ranked top 25 in both scoring offense and defense, as it averaged 35.2 points per game while conceding 18.5 to its foes. 

The Baltimore native was not invited to the combines but is ready to prove himself when Pro-day comes to Harrisonburg in soon. “’I’m ready to go to the next level.”  

 Steve Spurrier its Distinguished American Award. The award is presented annually to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain success in public service, business or private life and who has accomplished that which no other has done, according to the Walter Camp Football. The award’s winner is one who has shown integrity, honesty and a dedication to teamwork throughout their life and has excelled as a pioneer in their field. 

“It’s a great honor to be selected for this award by the Walter Camp Foundation,” said Spurrier. “I always tried to instill in my players that attitude and effort go a long way in achieving your goals, whether it be on or off the football field. I believe in treating others the right way, and doing the right thing, even if we do it a little differently than the other guys.” 

Walter Camp in known as “The Father of American football,” first selected an All-America team in 1889. Camp – a former Yale University athlete and football coach – is also credited with developing play from scrimmage, set plays, the numerical assessment of goals and tries and the restriction of play to eleven men per side. The Walter Camp Football Foundation – a New Haven-based all-volunteer group – was founded in 1967 to perpetuate the ideals of Camp and to continue the tradition of selecting annually an All-America team. 

The Walter Camp Football Foundation is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). The NCFAA was founded in 1997 as a coalition of the major collegiate football awards to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of the game’s predominant awards. The NCFAA encourages professionalism and the highest standards for the administration of its member awards and the selection of their candidates and recipients.