Categories: American Notables.
American football defensive end in the National Football League who later became an actor.
He was the first overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft and played most of his career with the Oakland Raiders until he retired after winning his second Super Bowl in 1981. Matuszak participated in the 1978 World's Strongest Man competition, where he placed ninth. As an actor, he played in both films and television, appearing first as O.W. Shaddock in 1979 in North Dallas Forty followed by Tonda in the 1981 film Caveman. His best known role was as the deformed Sloth in the 1985 movie The Goonies. His biography, Cruisin' with the Tooz, written with Steve Delsohn, was published in 1987.
He died in 1989 of an accidental propoxyphene overdose.
Early life: Matuszak was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Audrey and Marvin Matuszak. John had two brothers, but both died of cystic fibrosis at young ages. His one sister also had the disease. The family moved from downtown Milwaukee to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where Matuszak's classmates ridiculed him as a gawky beanpole. The ridicule pushed John to develop into a muscular young man, and he became the Wisconsin Class A state champion in the shot put with a throw of 58 ft 11 in (17.96 m). He was always big for his age, which became an advantage as a defensive lineman in football.
After a freshman year playing football at Fort Dodge Junior College in Iowa, Matuszak was recruited to the University of Missouri by Dan Devine. He enrolled at Mizzou for his sophomore year of college, where he played one season of football for the Tigers as a tight end. Matuszak did not see much playing time at Mizzou because the starting tight end was an excellent blocker.
Off the field, Matuszak was prone to disciplinary problems. He caved in another student's face while drunk at a fraternity party, claiming the other student insulted his date. With Dan Devine leaving Missouri for the Green Bay Packers that same year, Matuszak no longer had a spot on the team, and his scholarship was revoked by new coach Al Onofrio. Following his sophomore season at Mizzou, Matuszak transferred to the University of Tampa, where he became the star of their football team. He was also a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
By the time he became a professional athlete, Matuszak stood 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) and weighed over 280 lb (130 kg).
Professional athlete: Matuszak, drafted by the Houston Oilers of the NFL, was the first draft pick of 1973. In addition to his contract with the Oilers, he joined the Houston Texans of the World Football League, but played a total of seven plays before a restraining order that was served to him during a game that barred him from playing for two teams at the same time. Matuszak said he had no plans to play in that game but requested to play after seeing 25 or so men looking for him on the sidelines. He didn't know what was happening at the time and wanted to avoid confrontation. The Oilers, displeased that he tried joining the WFL, traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he played until 1975. Then he signed with the Raiders in 1976 after being released in pre-season by the Washington Redskins. He helped the Raiders win two Super Bowls (XI and XV) before retiring after spending the entire 1982 season on injured reserve.
His football career was often overshadowed by his even more famous use of drugs. In his autobiography, he stated that he took many painkillers as well as other narcotics while playing professional football. Because of this, an article written for Sports Illustrated's website in January 2005 named him one of the top five all-time "bad boys" of the NFL. Although his performances made him one of the best Raider defenders of all time, his volatile actions contributed to him not being popular with teammates and not being in Al Davis's favour.
Actor: Matuszak acted professionally in the 1980s, making appearances in feature films and on television, often portraying football players or gentle giants. His first major role was in the 1979 movie North Dallas Forty as a football player.
He appeared in the movies Caveman, The Ice Pirates, One Man Force, and One Crazy Summer, but is frequently remembered as deformed captive Sloth in The Goonies, the make-up for which took five hours to apply. Matuszak's character Sloth wears an Oakland Raiders shirt in some scenes. The rest of the cast was: Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, Josh Brolin, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Davi, Mary Ellen Trainor, Keith Walker, Lupe Ontiveros, Steve Antin, Curtis F. Hanson, Paul Tuerpe, Director Richard Donner makes a cameo appearance as a deputy.
He had numerous guest appearances in TV shows such as Perfect Strangers, M*A*S*H, The Dukes of Hazzard, Hunter, Silver Spoons, The A-Team, 1st & Ten, Miami Vice and Cheers.
Death: Matuszak died on June 17, 1989, as a result of acute propoxyphene intoxication, an accidental overdose of the prescription drug Darvocet, according to the findings of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. The report also said that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) and bronchopneumonia had been contributing factors in the death. There were also traces of cocaine found in the blood stream. He was 38 years old.
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