Robert Matheson (November 25, 1944 – September 5, 1994) was a linebacker who played thirteen seasons in the National Football League. He played in two Super Bowls for the Miami Dolphins.
A standout linebacker at Duke, he was drafted in 1967 by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the NFL Draft, was the first year of the common draft between the AFL and NFL. He was then acquired by the Dolphins prior to the 1971 season, after Miami defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger requested head coach Don Shula to do so. Matheson came to Miami one year after the Dolphins acquired Paul Warfield from Cleveland.
He was a member of the 1972 undefeated team for the Dolphins.
Matheson was often used by the Dolphins as a fourth linebacker in passing situations. This defensive alignment was often referred to as the "53" defense, named for Matheson's #53 jersey number. This is also referred to as a "34 defense" based on there being 3 linemen and 4 linebackers.
After leaving the Dolphins in 1979, Matheson returned to Duke as an assistant coach. He then came back and coached special teams and linebackers for 5 years with the Miami Dolphins. He then went and joined Duke alumni John Gutekunst as an assistant coach on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. In 1993, he returned to Duke to work at its Comprehensive Cancer Center.1981–1982 Duke University (LB)
1983–1987 Miami Dolphins (ST & LB)
1988-1991 University of Minnesota (Assistant Coach)
Matheson died on September 5, 1994 at Duke University Hospital from complications due to Hodgkin's disease. He had been battling the disease for 13 years. He was survived by his wife Pam who he married June 17, 1967 and their three children. Sons Todd September 19, 1970, Drew August 24, 1973 and daughter Jill January 21, 1977.