Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis announced today that he will retire following the Colts' Week 17 regular season finale versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Robert has been a very special player for our franchise for 14 seasons," said Colts Owner & CEO Jim Irsay. "I will miss watching him terrorize opposing quarterbacks, chasing them down with his incredible speed and knocking the ball from their grasp, as he did innumerable times. He was a game changer. In 2003, he was an undersized diamond-in-the-rough draft pick ---- and now he is a Hall of Fame candidate and future Colts Ring of Honor Inductee. Robert will be sorely missed by the Colts organization and Colts Nation."
Mathis, the franchise's all-time sack leader, was selected by the Colts in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. The 14-year veteran has played in 191 career games (120 starts) and totaled 601 tackles (453 solo), 122.0 sacks, 18 passes defensed, 51 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries (three returned for touchdowns), one interception and 15 special teams stops. He saw action in 18 postseason contests (11 starts) and tallied 48 tackles (32 solo), 6.5 sacks, two passes defensed, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Mathis was a member of the Colts' Super Bowl XLI-winning team.
He was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls (2008-2013) and was voted a 2013 Associated Press and Sporting News First Team NFL All-Pro selection. In 2013, Mathis won the inaugural Deacon Jones Award as the NFL's sack leader with 19.5. He became the second member in Colts history to lead the league in sacks (Dwight Freeney, 2004). Mathis was named to the 2013 PFWA All-NFL and All-AFC teams as well as the NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He became the franchise all-time sack leader and single season sack leader with his sack against Houston on Dec. 15, 2013. Following his multiple-sack game against Jacksonville on Dec. 29, 2013, Mathis set a team single-season record for sacks with 19.5.
The 98 photos of Robert Mathis throughout his career with the Colts.
Mathis ranks first in franchise history in sacks, fourth among active NFL players and tied for 18th in league history. He became the 30th player in NFL history to total 100.0 career sacks following a 2.0-sack performance in a victory against Seattle on Oct. 6, 2013. Mathis established a new NFL record with his 40th career sack-forced fumble during a Week 12 meeting at Arizona on Nov. 24, 2013 and topped Jason Taylor's previous record of 39. He currently has 46 career sack-forced fumbles. Mathis has five career 10.0-plus sack seasons and has compiled a franchise record 29 multiple-sack contests and three career 3.0-plus sack games. He set a franchise record for the most multiple-sack games in a single season with seven in 2013. Mathis compiled a string of four-straight multiple-sack games in 2013 (vs. Miami (9/15, 2.0), at San Francisco (9/22, 1.5), at Jacksonville (9/29, 3.0) and vs. Seattle (10/6, 2.0)). In 2005, he set an NFL record with sacks in eight consecutive games to start a season. His streak of eight games ranks as the second-longest in club history (Dwight Freeney, nine). Mathis also had a streak of eight consecutive games with a sack spanning the last two games of 2011 and the first six games of the 2012 season. Along with Dwight Freeney, became the first defensive end tandem since 1970 from the same team to be named to three consecutive Pro Bowls. Mathis and Freeney had 10.0-plus sacks each in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, surpassing Reggie White and Clyde Simmons for the most seasons of 10.0-plus sacks each by teammates in NFL history. Mathis and Freeney combined for 21.0 sacks in 2010, the fifth time they topped 20.0 sacks as a duo (26.5, 2004; 22.5, 2005; 22.0, 2008; 23.0, 2009).
Over his career, Mathis was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week on four occasions (2005, 2008, 2011, 2015) and AFC Defensive Player of the Month four times (November 2009, September 2010, October 2013 and December 2013). He was also named the team's recipient of the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award.
A look back at the career of Robert Mathis with the top photo from every season.
Colts Reflect on Robert Mathis:
Head Coach Chuck Pagano
"I am forever grateful for Robert taking a leap of faith back in 2012 when we came in here and talked about the position change and what he had been doing for a long, long time in a 4-3 defense and then moving to an outside linebacker. He could've went another direction and because of the man that he is and the love that he has for this organization and the love that he has for this city and his team, he decided to ride that thing out and took a leap of faith and we wouldn't be sitting where we are today and had the success that we have had over the last five years without that guy. It's a debt I cannot repay and I have the utmost respect for him, not only as a football player, but as a man, father, husband and a human being. All that he does inside this building and all that he does outside this building for the community, he is a warrior, they don't make them like that. I wish they all had his drive and his passion, his love for the game and his toughness and durability, coachability, tenacity, resolve and everything. He is a guy that nothing was given to him, he earned his way into this league and he has never taken it for granted, not one day. He never let any of the success or fame or money or this, that and the other ever get to him. He has been the same guy for 14 seasons. He looks at it as a privilege and not a right. So many times you find it the other way. I wish they all got it and figured it out like he figured it out and came with that gratitude every single day. I guarantee he has walked in this building every single day for 14 years and walked into that locker room and looked up and saw his nameplate still up there and a jersey number still up there and said, 'I'm going to die before I let somebody take this from me.'"
Safety Mike Adams
What has Mathis meant to this team?
"Not just this team, what Rob means to the league. I've always watched him and wanted to play with him. The spin move – it's like he invented it. The way he pass rushes. He means so much to the organization you just can't even pinpoint what he does. It's just his leadership, his presence. His presence just says a lot without him even saying anything. I'm just glad that I got the opportunity to put my pads on and strap this helmet up with him."
Re: Having a heck of a run in his career:
"He did. He had bumps and bruises along the way. One guy that I can honestly say he rode it until the wheels fell off. He's going out on his terms and that's what you want. You want to go out when you're ready to go out and not being pushed out, not being forced out, not being cut and not getting picked up by anybody else. He's making this decision and it's on him. I tip my hat off to him. Much love."
Quarterback Andrew Luck
Do you count yourself as fortunate to never have been on the other side of one of Mathis' strip-sacks?
"Absolutely. I'm very glad I've been on the same team of Robert Mathis my entire NFL career. Watching him play is special. I feel bad for those quarterbacks when his patented strip-sack move comes out."
What type of teammate has Mathis been?
"Robert is the best type of teammate anybody could ask for. He truly is. Not just saying that, he's an incredibly hard worker. He's very motivational to be around. Everything he does it team first. He's a great leader."
How special is it for Mathis to have spent his entire career with the Colts?
"I think it's great that he's been a Colt for his entire professional life. It obviously is very rare in this day and age in the 21st century in professional sports. He's the ultimate Colt. What he stands for is what the horseshoe stands for and he's a true inspiration for hopefully many generations to come."
For Mathis to work his way from a small school practice squad player to one of the best pass rushers of all time, what does that say for him as a person?
"His story is great. A small school, practice squad, undersized (player) – all of the boxes are sort of checked against him to be successful except for the intangibles. The hard work, the toughness and you certainly see that every day that you come to work with Rob. I know that a lot of the younger guys that maybe weren't drafted as high as they would have liked or are undrafted free agents or smaller schools look to him for help, education, mentoring and I know that he has done a great job of that since I've been a Colt here."
Punter Pat McAfee
What kind of teammate is Mathis?
"Robert Mathis is the epitome of a great football player, a great teammate and a great human. When I first got here in 2009, you're kind of shown around the building as a rookie and introduced to everybody. There was one man I saw jumping rope with his shirt off that I thought I had to befriend. He was the most intimidating human on earth. I was so scared. He had this bald head, this mean look. As I kind of grew into the season and it was the year we went to the Super Bowl he actually came up to me and befriended me and started talking to me and I'm at the bottom of the totem pole – the punter, the rookie punter who had no idea what he was doing or any reason to be on the team. Robert reached out to me and was kind of nice to me. That's why he's the epitome of a horseshoe guy. He's very welcoming, he's nice. He's there any time that you need him and most importantly he's just a monster on the field. I was very lucky to be his teammate."
What will be missed most about Mathis?
"It's hard to categorize it down to one thing because when you see him he's been there, done that with everything. You're talking surgeries, Super Bowls, playoff runs, wins, droughts, losses. You're talking about a guy who has been through the entire gamut of what a football season is so you can kind of lean on him for any question you have, whether it's with football or at home. I think he is just such a calming person. Whenever you know you have Robert Mathis on your side you feel good. It just makes you feel good. I'd much rather have Robert on my side than on the other side that's for darn sure. I think the biggest thing that will be missed is just his presence. Robert is an incredible human. Robert is one of the best humans I have ever met and his football skills are second to none. Him and Dwight Freeney, the damage that they caused off the ends, 93 and 98, that was just something you watched as a kid. To be his teammate and watch the strip-sack master, the sandman and to kind of just continue his career of greatness was just awesome. I think that's what will be missed."
Kicker Adam Vinatieri
What kind of teammate is Mathis?
"Robert is kind of that quiet guy that doesn't speak a whole lot, but when he speaks and says somethings it's just straight gold. Everything that comes out of his mouth is well thought out and very inspirational. You see what he does on the field, but he is just a great teammate in the locker room and the weight room. He's always coming to work hard every single day ready to go. If you can emulate trying to be like Rob you're going to be pretty successful because you look at a guy like him – wasn't a big draft choice and all that stuff. But he came to work every day and became a superstar through hard work. He's awesome."
Did you notice the player that he was early in his career?
"Absolutely. When I was on the other team, we feared him and Dwight Freeney. I'm glad that I wasn't a quarterback. I would have never slept that night probably thinking about him coming around the corner and strip-sacking people and getting ball loose. Even before I became his teammate I had huge admiration and huge respect for him."
What will be missed most about Mathis?
"There will be so much missed about Rob when he is not around. He's just a hell of a teammate. You know exactly what you are getting from him on the field, but that leadership in the locker room, he's just a smart guy that know what needs to be done. His leadership goes multi-levels. It goes uphill to the coaches and it goes down to the younger guys that maybe are first-year guys that are trying to figure out what is going one. Again, he's not a man of many, many words but he's always there to help the guys out and lead by example and by what he says. His leadership as much as his play will be missed."