ROBERT MATHIS: 2013 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS DEFENSIVE MVP
As a fifth-round draft pick out of Alabama A&M in 2003, the undersized Mathis was a bit of a mystery to the Colts coaching staff and the media who cover the team.
Quiet and unassuming, everybody wanted to know exactly where the Indianapolis coaching staff was going to play him. At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, was he an outside linebacker? Could he play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end in Tony Dungy’s Cover 2 defensive scheme?
Former Indianapolis team president/general manager Bill Polian wanted to Dungy to use him as a linebacker. But the Colts head coach saw Mathis as a perfect complement to Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney. Dungy won out.
Now, 11 years later, Mathis is the National Football League’s sack leader. He recorded a franchise single-season record 19.5 sacks in 2013 and was the team’s lone pick to the Pro Bowl.
“He’s Hall of Fame from my standpoint. He’s just the type of player that if he was playing the Rush end for all the years that he’s been playing defensive end, he would probably have a lot more sacks, just [my opinion] personally,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky praises.
“I think he’s just a great guy, great football player, great ability and just top notch.”
How good is Mathis? Manusky, who once served as the San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator, will tell you.
“I coached [linebacker] Junior (Seau] two years in San Diego. His motor was always revved up every practice, every game. He practiced the way he played and that’s what Robert does,” he said. “The good ones do that and usually they play well.”
It’s been a long trip for Mathis, who came into this season with a pretty hefty chip on his broad shoulders. He had read and heard that some observers thought he couldn’t be as productive without having former teammate Freeney lining up on the opposite side of the Indianapolis defensive line.