INDIANAPOLIS – They said things like this: Too small. Too short. Too dumb.
But what they forgot was: Too good.
Too damn good for more than 128 career sacks, the most in Colts' franchise history.
Too damn good to sack 61 different players over 14 NFL seasons.
Too damn good in finding the perfect strip/sack combination 46 times, the most any player in the NFL has ever had.
One of the most unique NFL stories ever told has decided his days of tormenting quarterbacks are coming to a close.
Sunday's home game with the Jaguars will be the final time Mathis will play in the NFL.
Some of my favorite Robert Mathis images over the last few years!
Growing up in southeast Atlanta, Mathis received a scholarship to Alabama A&M only because they ended up having an extra one when a different recruit chose another school.
During his 2002 senior season, Mathis had 20 sacks and even made his mark in Indianapolis.
Playing in the 2002 Circle City Classic at the RCA Dome, then area scout Todd Vasvari couldn't help but imagine Mathis playing on the same turf at the NFL level.
"When I'm watching the tape, I'm seeing a player with some of the same traits as Dwight Freeney – exploding off the edge, high speed, high motor, making plays," Vasvari said.
"I saw him crossing over the Colts helmet on the field and I'm thinking, 'This is weird. This guy looks like Dwight at his level.'"
Vasvari still has the collegiate film of Mathis, marveling at the special teams plays that kept on appearing.
When Tony Dungy took a look, the future Hall of Fame coach was in awe.
"Other than Barry Sanders, the best college highlight tape I've ever seen," Dungy said of Mathis' film. "I'm saying, 'I don't think this guy is real.' Of course it's small school and grainy film and people are saying against different competition he won't be able to do it.
"Coming around the corner, sack fumbles, chasing people down 30 yards down field, blocking kicks, running down making tackles on kickoff, just doing everything you could do on the football field. Then when Robert came in he was so quiet and unassuming. I said, 'Is this the same guy we saw on this tape?' But he was just determined to be a leader with his play, not with his words. He's been special."
Mathis' 2003 rookie season in Indianapolis was spent playing behind Chad Bratzke and Raheem Brock, with Dwight Freeney lining up on the opposite side.
It didn't take long for Mathis to force his way into the lineup after 10.5 sacks in his second NFL season, and 11.5 in his third.
Mathis would become a full-time starter in 2006, the year the Colts captured Super Bowl XLI.
Outside of the first and last of his 14 NFL seasons, Mathis has had at least 7.0 sacks ever year.
The six-time Pro Bowler's career-year came in 2013.
A 19.5-sack season from Mathis earned him the Deacon Jones Award, for having the most sacks in the NFL that year.
"He's everything you are looking for in a football player," Pagano said of Mathis following that 19.5-sack season in 2013. "He loves the game of football. He plays with great passion and energy.
"I got to watch this guy from afar but now it's an honor and privilege to be on the same sideline and to be around this guy and coach this guy. There's not a better person, human being, father, husband, mentor."
Father time, like it does to everyone, has caught up with the 35-year-old Mathis.
Mathis, who ranks 18th on the NFL's all-time sack list, said a few weeks back that "father time is undefeated" and that he wanted to be truthful about when it was time to put the pads away for good.
That's coming Sunday afternoon, after one final curtain call, in front of the fans he's played for in all 14 of his NFL seasons.
Playing for one team, in a community Mathis is actively involved in, is something very close to Mathis' heart.
"That's every players' dream," Mathis says of playing for one team his entire career, "but very few guys are able to do it."
This dream, Mathis' dream, was real.