A USC Linebacker Who Simply Made Plays

The best linebacker I covered at USC was Chris Claiborne.

But I always say the second-best linebacker I saw was Matt Grootegoed.

He also was one of the smallest but size did not matter with Grootegoed. The reason I rate him so highly is simple: He made plays.

Grootegoed did not disappear in games. He was always around the ball. Consider that he had 41.5 tackles for loss at USC. Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, who were deserved All-Americans, combined for 49.5 in their careers. Grootegoed also intercepted six passes in his career.

Grootegoed was an All-American but sometimes he gets forgotten when people mention Cushing, Maualuga, Clay Matthews, Keith Rivers or Lofa Tatupu.

25 thoughts on “A USC Linebacker Who Simply Made Plays

    1. Matty G. was the man! I can remember being in the student section always hearing his name being called. The dude was just always around the ball. True, underrated Trojan.

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Pretty fair assessment, SW. The best LB I ever saw at SC was Junior. McGinest was a close second. As for Groots, you knew he wasn’t going to be a great pro, size and speed too much, but the dude just knew where to go, where to be, and squeezed every ounce of talent out of his body. A great one no doubt.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Grootes was such a ball hawk! If we could learn to get production out of 4 and 5 star talent they way that Matt played, all would be well in the kingdom of Troy. If you look up “Play with Heart” in the dictionary you will find Matt’s photo. Well played son…Fight On!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. RICHARD WOOD….WAS THE BEST LB to ever play at USC. Seau, was right there also.

    Claiborne, was physical and good against the run, but the “Batman” had the speed of a running back, and was also very physical. Claiborne, also played on some below average USC teams where Wood won two national championships.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Batman was perhaps the best college LB ever at his size (6’1″, 210). Yes, he was incredibly fast, and also had the strength of a much bigger player. He was the anchor on those very defenses.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Batman was the man.. Jr. Was also crazy good. Keith Rivers get lost in the shuffle but also was a stud.

    Chip Banks is the one I love the most though… we were at SC at the same time. Me on the vball squad and him as a crazy good SC linebacker. He played on some really good SC teams.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. People always like to talk about the great LB group with Maualuga, Cushing and Maiava. But I think having Lofa Tatupu and Matt Groetegood was just as good if not better than that crew.

    Maualuga, Cushing and Maiava may have each won a Rose Bowl MVP while playing together but Tatupu and Grootegoed won back to back national titles (2003, 2004) as starting linebackers together.


    Liked by 4 people

    1. For 1 season Champ Simmons who is always forgotten was a solid member with Lofa Tatupu and Grootegoed. An overlooked group of LBs who were arguably the best in the nation.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I liked Champ Simmons.

        But people also don’t know that he came from a great local football playing family. Alot of his brothers played great high school football in the Los Angeles area.


        Liked by 3 people

      2. He had two brothers that played at SC. Or one for sure and his brother that played for K-State was originally supposed to be in the class with Bing, Justice, Dennis, and Wright from Long Beach Poly but he had some issues with grades. Definitely a football and Trojan family.


  6. Groo was like watching a guy running around the field seeing it from the eye in the sky and being able to pause the action and go be where the ball is. I saw him make some plays just picking his way through traffic and anticipating where the ball would be and not where it was. I once saw him edge outside a lead tackle drop down at the guys outside knee (that low to the ground) stop on a dime and reach back behind the lead block to trip the ball carrier for a 3 yard loss. And every play was like that. And remember he was a Quarter back at mater dei. A lot of guys are good. Safties, LBs, WRs QBs, RBs, But Groo was just a true FOOTBALL PLAYER. I think he would have been just as successful at just about any position. He could play safty, fullback, tailback (like Borgie at Wazzu) option QB, nickel corner, mike, will, sam, elephant, possession receiver, you name it. Guy could flat out play football. Instincts and football IQ were off the charts.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Those Del Rio/Bickett years we pretty special. Glendale High old Bickett was a tight end too. Thats why he played LB with an 80.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. He was 5feet nothin. A hundred and nothin.
    Ok that was Rudy but Grootegoed had a motor and nothing but heart out on the field. Next to Troy Polamalu I don’t remember any player better than him at tackling. Important big time open field tackles. I agree with Wolf. Matt Grootegoed made plays.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ’08 had great team speed. Look at the way McKnight explodes past the line in the video. Guessing he was even quicker than Reggie in the first 20 yards. And look at Havili’s speed coming out of the backfield on that pass catch. And he was a fullback.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. He was the man. I remember watching him in high school and was amazed by his talent. I knew USC was getting a real playmaker and boy did they ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. USC is very underated for their lbers and that is a shame. People can Penn St. Linebacker U. They don’t hang with SC’s lber’s. I say SC has had the best corp overall in the nation. I am not saying this as an SC but a fan of football. They know the position and they do it well. I have seen so many times where lbers would stuff the play on 4th and 1 on the goal line like Ricky Gray or Ellison. I have seen Batman Woods, Ricky Bell, Seau, Claiborn, Kevin Bruce, Chip Banks, Seau, Willie Mcginnist, The boys who split and some went to nd and some went to SC, In the old days, SC lbers owned the field, especially in big games like the Rose Bowl. I will take our lbers any of them and with the right coaches, stop the opposing team’s offense. Now, it is time for the new lber coach get the new kids up and running so the tradition continues. Fight On


  10. Concur with everything said about Groots. In 2004 he was a finalist for the Butkus Award, and he was a CONSENSUS first-team All-American. Last I heard, Groots went back up to Canada and is a firefighter with a wife and kids. (Does that really surprise anyone?)


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