Clayton Kershaw is known to Dodger fans as the 21-year-old left-handed wunderkind who burst onto the scene in 2008 in an exhibition game and made his big league debut just two months after his 20th birthday. Now he’s a mainstay on the Dodger starting rotation.
Matthew Stafford is more well-known to football fans, as last year he was the top pick in the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and was inserted as the startin quarterback shortly thereafter. This on the heels of his being a standout quarterback at the University of Georgia for three years.
But back when they were seven-year-olds playing for the Blue Bombers youth soccer team in the Arlington, Texas suburb of Highland Park, making it to the highest level in two of the most popular sports in the country seemed worlds away. At the time they were just two kids playing together in just about every sport, having the everyday fun that boys do.
To hear their mothers talk, it sounds the same as any friendship that blossoms through sports or school.
“They always wanted to be outside,” said Marianne Kershaw, Clayton’s mother. “But if it was a rainy day, Clayton and Matthew developed this game called Hallway Hockey. They cut off full-size hockey sticks, and they’d put on football helmets. Then they’d put pillows under their shirts and put kneepads on. They’d run tape across doors at either side of the hallway and shoot goals at each other. They’d be goalie of their own door. It was pretty ingenious.”
Margaret Stafford, Matthew’s mother, has some memories of her own.
“They were always goofing around and having fun,” said Margaret Stafford, Matthew’s mother. “When we’d go on road trips with the baseball team we’d go to Wal-Mart and they’d buy costumes and goof around. “You flash back and think about them growing up. I guess we always do that whenever we run into the other kids who were on the team. A lot of them have changed so much from little chubby-faced boys into handsome young men, like Clayton who is tall and thin. He did have a little chubby face back then. Yes, I always think back. It went by so quickly, but you still can remember it like it was yesterday.”
They may have been very much like other boys, but when a ball was in their hands or at their feet there were signs of future talent that was starting to sprout. John Calandro, their youth soccer coach during those days, recalled what would happen during breaks in the action on the soccer field.
“In between soccer games Matthew and Clayton would throw the football around and they had arms stronger than any of the dads,” said Calandro. “Matthew could throw a straight spiral at 7. At 8 or 9 Clayton could throw a curveball. Their unique abilities at those ages were outstanding.”