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Indianapolis Colts

Robert Mathis Explains Why He Is Retiring

Intro: Friday is Robert Mathis’ normal day to meet the media. But this Friday had Mathis at the podium, instead of at his locker, announcing his retirement after 14 NFL seasons.


INDIANAPOLIS – In case they didn't know, Jim Irsay was about to make it pretty clear to his football team what he thought of Robert Mathis.

The year was 2013, and the Colts had just knocked off the Seattle Seahawks.

Mathis' 2.0 sacks that day, which gave him 100 for his career, were monumental in the victory over Russell Wilson and company.

A game ball was going to No. 98.

"I've been around this game for 42 years," Irsay said inside the home locker room. "I've been around locker rooms with Johnny Unitas on forward and that man right there (pointing to Mathis) is one of the best football players I have ever seen.

"What he's meant to this franchise is something. I've always said, 'If we could have 11 Robert Mathis' on both sides of the ball we would never lose a game.'"

With Mathis quarterback hating for 14 seasons in Indy, the Colts didn't lose many games.

Sunday will be the final curtain call for Mathis.

For the 35-year-old franchise sack leader, he knew back in late October that 2016 was going to be his final season.

Announcing his retirement on Friday, Mathis explained the emotional decision.

"It is time to step aside," Mathis, the six-time Pro Bowler, said. "The game has been good to me, I want to pay it forward, I want to leave it better than I found it and I want to help the younger guys. I want to walk away, I don't want to limp away. The rest of my body goes to my kids."

Even though Mathis will no longer be part of the playing family of the Colts, his impact and longevity is unparalleled.

Of all the pillar Colts this franchise has had over the past 20 years, Mathis is the only one to have never donned another uniform in a game or practice.

"They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to start," Mathis said of the Colts selecting him in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, "and to end in the same place, in one place, that is something a whole lot of guys, a whole lot of greats are not able to say.

"I appreciate it to the utmost that they have given me the opportunity to play 14 seasons in one place."

Watching Mathis speak on Friday, it was clear this decision was not an easy one.

While Mathis' family gets to see more of their father and husband, football has provided him a bevy of unforgettable moments.

"You are going to have to excuse me, bare with me, this is pretty tough for me stepping away from the game that I love," Mathis, the NFL’s all-time leader in strip/sacks, said on Friday.

"The game of football has in a sense been my best friend, aside from my wife of course. My brothers from high school to college to the pros, everybody, my homeboys that are near and dear to me are because of football."

After the final practice of his football career, Mathis broke down the Colts' huddle, informing his teammates that Sunday would be it for him.

Sunday will be the final time the blue No. 98 jersey with "Mathis" will be on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mathis assured those on Friday that while the playing days are coming to an end, Indy is home.

"I am here forever, it is a part of me, it is in my DNA," Mathis said. "Anything that the Colts need of me I will be here. You are not getting rid of me, trust and believe me.

"I will be knocking on the door as soon as the season is over. 'What do you have for me?' I will be here. It is a joyous moment. I love everything about it. It will be weird without putting a 98 jersey on. (But) I am Indy, Indy is me."

The 98 photos of Robert Mathis throughout his career with the Colts.

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