Matson was born May 1, 1930 in Trinity, Texas. He played college football at the University of San Francisco and in 1951 led the nation in rushing yardage and touchdowns and was named an All-American.
He was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1952 NFL Draft and that year was the co-Rookie of the Year. Also that year, Matson won the Bronze medal in the 400-meter race and the Silver medal in the 4×400-meter relay at the Helsinki Olympic Games. Over his 14 season professional career, Matson was a seven-time All-Pro selection. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.