INDIANAPOLIS –There is an adage that says what a person does speaks much more loudly than what he or she says.
That phrase can pertain to Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, who quietly and with integrity has become the 14th player in franchise history to reach 100 career victories in the regular season.
Mathis reached the milestone on Sunday when the Colts beat Miami, 23-20. Fittingly, he had a sack on the momentous day.
"Robert Mathis is a special player who has done great things throughout his career," said Owner and CEO Jim Irsay. "To get to 100 wins with the Colts is an outstanding achievement, and it is a milestone reached by only a few great players.
"I have enjoyed watching Robert over the years. He is a true leader on and off the field, one who is regarded deeply by teammates past and present. Robert is one of the most noteworthy performers ever to wear the Horseshoe."
Mathis now has 89.5 career sacks. Those takedowns go along with 40 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries and countless headaches for opposing coaches and signal-callers.
For Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson, retaining Mathis was a top priority as he constructed the club in his first year with Indianapolis.
"Robert Mathis epitomizes everything you want in a football player. Not only is he extremely gifted athletically and instinctually, but he approaches and plays the game the way it was meant to be played," said Grigson. "He is a role model for all young athletes to look up to in every respect. He plays lights out every snap of every practice and every game not for the money or fame, but because he wants to help his team win.
"Robert Mathis is a living example of true leadership and what a true 'TEAM' player looks and acts like. That is why he was priority No. 1 (to sign) this offseason. (He is) one of the true pillars of this team and organization."
Mathis became the ninth Indianapolis era player to reach the milestone, and the roll call of names on the full list stands as a recitation of a large portion of franchise playing royalty: 141 games, QB-Peyton Manning; 132, QB-John Unitas; 132, C-Jeff Saturday; 127, TE-Justin Snow; 121, WR-Reggie Wayne; 118, WR-Marvin Harrison; 114, P-Hunter Smith; 109, P-David Lee; 108, OT-Ryan Diem; 107, LB-Don Shinnick; 106, DE-Ordell Braase; 105, C/LB-Dick Szymanski; 106, LB-Dwight Freeney; 100, Mathis.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri has been a part of 157 regular-season victories, including 101 with New England from 1996-2005. Vinatieri has not had the wear-and-tear of a position player who reached the milestone, but his moments on the field have capped many victories for teammates with whom he has competed.
"Anybody who even plays 100 games in this league has had a very nice career. To be on a team where you can say you had 100 wins, that's a huge claim for your success as a player," said Vinatieri. "The longevity is impressive because you have to stay healthy, you're out there contributing to your team for many seasons. There is no trophy for it. There is no plaque for it, but it's a milestone you should be very proud of.
"It means you have been there for your teammates. The guys who get the most respect in the locker room may not be the guys who make the most money. It's the guys who are there and can be relied upon day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. Robert's that kind of guy. He's a quiet leader for our team. He puts so much out there for the guys. He's such a leader on the field. You wish you had a team full of Roberts."
Linebacker Dwight Freeney pushed his career sack total to 104.5 yesterday. It was the 34th time Freeney and Mathis produced sacks in the same game, and the Colts are 26-8 in those outings.
"I don't think anybody really understands how great that (100 wins) is. That's a lot of wins. That's a lot of doing things the right way and being a part of something great. He definitely has been a big staple in this organization," said Freeney.
"There is no award for that (longevity and production), but it's a lot of wins. It means you're doing a lot of things the right way. All the sacrifice and effort paid off. Longevity does mean a great deal."
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians has been in the NFL for 20 seasons and has helped put together vibrant offenses that have racked up 10 or more wins in numerous seasons. Arians has seen players who have contributed mightily to those efforts, and he has a regard for players like Mathis who show up, play and lead on Sundays.
"That's an unbelievable feat, to be able to play that long and win that many games," said Arians. "You have to be a rare player, and Robert is. Robert is a very special, dynamic guy. He has been so good for so long. It's a phenomenal feat. To do what he's done, you're always a part of answering a team's challenges. A coach appreciates a player like Robert."
Mathis was a 2003 draft-day find by the Colts in the fifth round. He came from Alabama A&M, not a traditional path to the NFL. He was provided the last scholarship available there.
Safety Antoine Bethea has the next-highest regular-season victory total among active Colts. The Miami win was his 65th. Getting to 100 may be tough. In Mathis, Bethea, a product of Howard University, sees a great teammate who came a long way. He sees another dedicated player who has done wonders for Indianapolis.
"That (100 wins) means a lot. To be able you did that with one organization is outstanding," said Bethea. "With Robert and his style of play, it means a lot. He's been an integral part of this organization since he's been here. One hundred wins is a great thing. I tip my hat to him. It meant he was healthy and out there making plays, and he made a lot of them.
"Robert was accountable to his teammates. He's been a leader out there for years. What he has done means a lot. What he has been able to do in going out there is something players respect.
"I see similarities with Robert and me, coming from HBCU's (historically black colleges and universities) and being late draft picks. It took Robert about two years to really say a word here in the locker room. He's very quiet, but on the field he stands out much more, the way he plays the game and celebrates. On the field, you would think he's a very out-spoken guy, but he's not like that. He's a real good guy. I'll always speak highly of him because he's a good dude, good man, great football player. In every area of life, he's a good dude."