John Matuszak

American actor and American football player (1950–1989)

American football player
John Matuszak
refer to caption
Matuszak in 1987
No. 78, 79, 72
Position:Defensive end
Personal information
Born:(1950-10-25)October 25, 1950
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died:June 17, 1989(1989-06-17) (aged 38)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Weight:272 lb (123 kg)
Career information
High school:Oak Creek
(Oak Creek, Wisconsin)
College:Fort Dodge JC (1969),
Missouri (1970),
Tampa (1971–1972)
NFL draft:1973 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
  • Houston Oilers (1973)
  • Houston Texans (1974)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (1974–1975)
  • Washington Redskins (1976)
  • Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (19761982)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:123
Games started:106
Fumble recoveries:7
Player stats at PFR

John Daniel Matuszak (October 25, 1950 – June 17, 1989), nicknamed "Tooz", was an American football defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) who later became an actor.

Matuszak 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. He participated in the 1978 World's Strongest Man competition, where he placed ninth. As an actor, Matuszak played in both films and television, appearing first as O. W. Shaddock in North Dallas Forty (1979) followed by Tonda in Caveman (1981) and the deformed Sloth in The Goonies (1985). His biography, Cruisin' with the Tooz, written with Steve Delsohn, was published in 1987.

Early life

Matuszak was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Audrey and Marvin Matuszak. He had two brothers, but both died of cystic fibrosis at young ages. One of his sisters also had the disease. The family moved from downtown Milwaukee to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where Matuszak's classmates ridiculed him as a gawky beanpole. Their disrespect motivated him 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).[citation needed] Matuszak was always big for his age, which became an advantage as a defensive lineman in football. He attended Oak Creek High School.[1]

After a freshman year playing football at Fort Dodge Junior College in Iowa, Matuszak was recruited to the University of Missouri by Dan Devine. Matuszak 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. 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.

Matuszak subsequently transferred to the University of Tampa, where he moved back to his natural position on the defensive line and quickly became the defensive star of the Tampa Spartans football team. He was selected to the All American Team 1972. He was also a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.[2]

In Matuszak's last college football game, Tampa defeated Kent State 21-18 in the Tangerine Bowl. Kent State's standouts included future Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert and Gary Pinkel, who coached Missouri from 2001 to 2015. Another Golden Flashes senior, future seven-time national championship coach Nick Saban, suffered a season-ending injury in October. Kent State's coach was Don James, who went on to win the 1991 national championship at Washington.

By the time he became a professional athlete, Matuszak stood 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) and weighed over 280 lb (130 kg).[3]

Professional athlete

Matuszak was the first pick of the 1973 NFL Draft, selected by the Houston Oilers. In addition to his contract with the Oilers, he joined the Houston Texans of the World Football League (WFL), playing a total of seven plays before a restraining order was served to him during a game, barring him from being under contract 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 displeased Oilers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for Curley Culp, another player who had threatened to jump to the WFL, and a first-round draft choice in 1975 on October 22, 1974. The trade was a steal for Houston, where Culp became a Hall of Fame performer when coach Bum Phillips moved Culp to nose tackle in the 3-4 defense in 1975.[4] In 1976, the Kansas City Chiefs traded Matuszak to the Washington Redskins but he was released by the Redskins soon after. Later that year, as a free agent, Matuszak signed with the Raiders. He helped them win two Super Bowls (XI and XV) before retiring after spending the entire 1982 season on injured reserve.[5][6]

Matuszak's football career was often overshadowed by his lifestyle.[7] In his autobiography, he stated that he used drugs and abused alcohol while playing professional football. 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.[8]

Matuszak was the only one of the first six selections of the 1973 draft to never earn first-team All-Pro honors. Offensive guard John Hannah, selected fourth by the New England Patriots, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, his first year of eligibility, following a 13-year career, while quarterback Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts), offensive tackle Jerry Sisemore, tight end Charle Young (Philadelphia Eagles), and defensive tackle Dave Butz (St. Louis Cardinals) were all prominent throughout the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s.


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 film 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 makeup for which took five hours to apply.[9] Sloth wears an Oakland Raiders shirt in some scenes. 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, Hollywood Beat and Miami Vice.


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.[10] He was 38 years old. The report also said that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) and bronchopneumonia had been contributing factors in his death. There were also traces of cocaine found in his bloodstream.[11]


Year Title Role Notes
1979 North Dallas Forty O.W. Shaddock
1981 Caveman Tonda
1984 The Ice Pirates Killjoy
1985 The Goonies Sloth Fratelli
1986 One Crazy Summer Stain
1987 P.K. and the Kid Himself
1989 Ghost Writer Jake
1989 The Princess and the Dwarf
1989 One Man Force Jake
1990 Down the Drain Jed Stewart (final film role, posthumous release)
Year Title Role Notes
1982 M*A*S*H Cpl. Elmo Hitalski Season 10 Episode 18 "Promotion Commotion"
1982 Trapper John M.D. Joe McGurski Season 3 Episode 23 "Cause for Concern"
1983 Matt Houston Harold 1 episode
1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Stoney Season 7 Episode 5 "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
1984 Silver Spoons Elmer 1 episode
1985 The Fall Guy Dwayne Season 4 Episode 13 "Semi-Catastrophe"
1985 Hollywood Beat George Grinsky 14 episodes
1985 Command 5 Nick Kowalski TV movie
1985 Benson Roy 1 episode
1986 Tall Tales & Legends Mountain Man Episode "Darlin Clementine"
1986 Hunter Lincoln Season 2 Episode 18 "Death Machine"
1986 The A-Team Davey Miller Season 5 Episode 4 "Quarterback Sneak"
1987 Miami Vice Lascoe 1 episode
1987 1st & Ten: The Championship John Manzak Season 3 Episodes 2,3,4
1988 The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission Fred Collins TV movie
1988 Aaron's Way Purque 2 episodes
1989 Perfect Strangers Cobra 1 episode
1989 Superboy Android 1 episode


  • John Matuszak and Steve Delsohn. Cruisin' with the Tooz. 1987. ISBN 0-531-15055-0.
  1. ^ "Matuszak eulogized". June 21, 1989. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "Farewell, Tooz, we hardly knew you". January 12, 2013. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Heisler, Mark (July 9, 1989). "The Life and Times of the Tooz: Menacing Body Held Spirit of Insecure, Guilt-Ridden Child". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Packers Get Hadl," The New York Times, Wednesday, October 23, 1974. Retrieved December 6, 2018
  5. ^ Griffin, Gil (June 20, 1989). "Bumpy ride for Matuszak in fast lane". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  6. ^ "Former NFL great John Matuszak dead at 38". Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  7. ^ Baker, Rani. "Sloth's tragic real-life story". Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  8. ^ Banks, Don (January 14, 2005). "The Top Five: Move over, Moss and T.O. -- these are the real bad boys of NFL lore". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 19, 2018 – via
  9. ^ John Matuszak at IMDb
  10. ^ "Matuszak's Death Caused By Accidental Overdose". The New York Times. June 28, 1989.
  11. ^ Notopoulos, Katie. "Here is the Butt of Sloth from "the Goonies"". BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed. Retrieved November 5, 2014.

External links

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Houston Oilers 1973 NFL draft selections
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Tennessee Titans first-round draft picks
Formerly the Houston Oilers (1960–1996) and the Tennessee Oilers (1997–1998)
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Oakland Raiders Super Bowl XI champions
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Oakland Raiders Super Bowl XV champions
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