INDIANAPOLIS – Of every college highlight tape Tony Dungy watched in 28 NFL seasons, just one player was more impressive than Robert Mathis.
That's high praise for No. 98. *
"I don't think this guy is real," is what Dungy kept on thinking when he watched the tape from Alabama A&M.
The film was grainy and the competition wasn't at the top of Division I, but plays were everywhere.
Sack/fumbles, chasing players 30 yards down the field, making tackles on kickoff coverage, Mathis was everywhere.
While a less than ideal frame and small school pedigree deterred others, the Colts took Mathis with the 138th overall pick in Round Five of the 2003 NFL Draft.
"When Robert came in he was so quiet and unassuming," Dungy said of the Atlanta native. "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."
That play has led Mathis to the top of the Colts' franchise sack list as he enters season No. 14.
Last season, this time of year was all about rehab for Mathis.
"I feel a lot better at this point and time than I did last year," Mathis said last week on 1070 The Fan. "I'm very, very happy for the season and ready to get out there."
Once Mathis' Achilles' rehab was complete in 2015, he entered the starting lineup in Week Seven and finished the year with a team-best 7.0 sacks.
New coordinator Ted Monachino has made it clear: the 35-year-old-Mathis will continue to be a major cog in the team's pass rush.
"He's been special," Dungy says of his former game-wrecking defender.
"It's been awesome to see him develop into one of the team leaders. I'm looking forward to watching him close out his career on a really high note."
Happy Birthday Robert Mathis!